With nine of the 11 Gauteng municipalities facing the risk of becoming dysfunctional, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebohang Maile is taking a tough stance by establishing a commission of inquiry into allegations of fraud, maladministration and corruption.
Maile made the announcement during a media briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
He said the inquiry would be given three months to investigate why municipalities have been unable to spend the municipal infrastructure grant.
“Notwithstanding the critical role municipalities in Gauteng have played in challenging the socioeconomic conditions province-wide, there are glaring systemic and perennial challenges that refuse to go away.”
Maile identified these as corruption, fraud, poor finance management, non-payment of services and service delivery backlogs, among others.
“There are so many allegations in every municipality … there are quite a lot every day. If we were to appoint forensic investigators for every allegation, we would never have money for service delivery and that is why our emphasis is on cost-effectiveness.”
Municipalities have seriously regressed and a different cost-effective, comprehensive approach was required to address challenges faced by the struggling municipalities, he said.
Terms of reference for the inquiry would be to inquire, make findings and make recommendations to the MEC on whether municipalities were fulfilling their constitutional duties.
Maile said a bleak picture had emerged in the province’s metros, naming Tshwane and Johannesburg as having high levels of unauthorised, irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure.
“We will pay particular attention to all struggling and dysfunctional municipalities irrespective of which political party is in power or office.”
He added only people with impeccable reputations would be appointed to the inquiry and they would be supported by a secretariat.
The inquiry was expected to cost about R3 million, Maile said, adding it was nowhere near the amount the provincial department would have paid for a forensic inquiry.
“We are carefully saying we cannot afford to waste public money but at the same time we cannot ignore the allegations of corruption so it’s about striking that balance.”
Two of the province’s dysfunctional municipalities are Emfuleni and West Rand, with the latter staring administration in the face. Emfuleni, which has been plagued by allegations of corruption and maladministration, is currently under administration.
Recently, The Citizen reported a forensic investigation had fingered at least 31 senior managers in tender irregularities that ran to more than R1bn.
The West Rand Municipality is under a dark cloud after it was flagged for having invested R81 million in the Limpopo-based VBS Bank, while its neighbouring municipality, Merafong, had invested R50 million.
Earlier this year, investigative unit amaBhungane reported the Ekurhuleni metro had spent R1.9 billion on a toilet tender, which was allegedly a “get-rich-quick scheme” for underperforming contractors.
It also alleged the project was sourced from 16 small suppliers and occurred over three financial years, leaving many residents with dirty and broken toilets.
Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina insisted the tender was above board and oversight had been done on it.
Tshwane also faces a litany of alleged irregularities.
News24 recently reported the City was flagged by the Auditor-General for having R5 billion in irregular expenditure.
It also reported the City had reappointed a service provider to run the Wonderboom National Airport in spite of warnings by its legal and supply chain management departments that the appointment could be unlawful.