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SA Parliament: COGTA committee concerned about effectiveness of municipal interventions

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Cape Town, Parliament, 30 July 2020 – The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is concerned about the high number of section 139 interventions in municipalities across the country, and has questioned the effectiveness of these mechanisms.

Last night, the committee met with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the South African Local Government Association (Salga) to discuss the concept of putting struggling municipalities under administration through Section 139 of the Constitution and other related laws.
The committee heard that during the financial year 2019/2020, 46 municipalities across the country were subjected to interventions, with some municipalities being placed under administration more than once.
Committee members questioned the effectiveness of the intervention, saying there was no evidence that the intervention produced the required results. Some municipalities are said to have gone back to their problem or even worse when the administration was lifted.
Committee Chairperson Ms Faith Muthambi said it was clear that there are serious problems in the application of interventions and these have long term effects. She also questioned the costs of putting a municipality under administration, which often add to the financial difficulties.

The committee proposed that placing struggling municipalities under administration through Section 139 of the Constitution must be the last resort and that provinces must act early through monitoring and support.
The department was advised to use the Auditor-General’s report as a warning instead of waiting for a municipality to get to a state of total collapse.
Both the department and Salga agreed with the committee that the interventions have not produced the intended outcomes and attributed the failure of the mechanism to various factors, including leadership problems and political infighting.
Salga told the committee that the interventions have failed because they are often not done to achieve the objective – which is to restore good governance and sound financial management – but for political expediency.
The committee also heard that a number of municipalities were resorting to taking the interventions to court and, while the matter was fought in court, service delivery suffers.
Cogta Deputy Minister Obed Bapela said through the proposed Intergovernmental, Monitoring and Evaluation Legislation the department will be able to build better systems to sustain local government.
The committee has resolved to summon all provincial MECs for local government where there are municipalities under administration for further deliberations on the matter. Cogta has also been instructed to submit to the committee a detailed report outlining the role played by the department to help struggling municipalities.

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