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By Sydney Majoko


SA’s local municipalities need a total overhaul

The negative audit outcomes cannot be fixed by the same people who created them.

The Auditor-General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke, released the 2020-2021 audit outcomes on local government report last week.

There were no surprises: things are still bad. So bad, in fact, that up to 28% of local municipalities are on the brink of collapsing.

That statistic is quite sobering: more than a quarter of South Africa’s daily governance structure is in shambles.

These municipalities are the ones citizens rely on for services. And it’s not as though the other 72% all received positive audit outcomes, no.

ALSO READ: Municipalities hold their breaths as Auditor-General to release annual audit outcomes

It is for this reason that former newspaper editor Songezo Zibi is urging all South Africans to stop merely complaining about the situation and get involved.

Zibi and other like-minded educated South Africans are important because they are the solution that this country needs.

And it is important that they stand up right now to introduce a new dimension to this country’s politics.

The AG and her team can unearth all the rot that proves that South Africa’s current rulers have run certain sections of the country into the ground as far as governance is concerned.

She may, in future, even institute remedial actions like holding mayors and councillors liable for wasteful expenditure but the truth of the matter is it all starts with political will.

Negative audit outcomes cannot be fixed by the same people who created them.

And this is why the AG’s question: “If the councillor is failing to spend government’s money responsibly, where is the city manager, the mayor, the MEC?”

It is a well-intentioned question but rhetorical, nonetheless. Good intentions alone do not produce favourable outcomes.

READ MORE: AG’s Report: Municipal finances a dumpster fire, while consultants laugh all the way to the bank

In fact, this is how the country got where it is today.

When municipalities could not provide proper evidence of how the money they were entrusted with was spent, they received a negative audit outcome and life went on, until the next audit, until everyone accepts that poor audit outcomes are acceptable.

In reality, the AG is providing excellent evidence that the whole system is broken.

There might be pockets of excellence in certain areas, but the current model of governance has created a situation where more than a quarter of the country’s municipalities are dysfunctional. So dysfunctional that certain municipalities cannot pay their own service providers.

Such a state of affairs needs general consensus between citizens to elect new rulers who will not only bring accountability, but introduce a culture of taking responsibility for the decisions that they make while in office.

And the AG will not be afraid or reluctant to instruct the mayor to repay whatever monies are deemed to be wasteful expenditure.

ALSO READ: Gauteng blows almost R10 billion on irregular expenditure

The easiest thing to do for any politician right now will be to point at the AG and reason that she is exercising all the powers of her office.

Sure, she can be a raging bull and charge all implicated in wasteful expenditure, but the truth is that everything starts with the political will to do the right thing.

The likes of Zibi and other fresh new faces need to package their offerings such that they will be attractive to all South Africans who have come to the same conclusion as them: South Africa requires more than just pressing the reset button.

It requires a total overhaul of the system and its leadership.

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