Municipalities are very unhappy because they did not receive the full R20 billion that Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa promised them as Covid-19 relief.
Thami Ngubane, a member of the Local Government Association’s (Salga) National Executive Committee, on Thursday afternoon told Parliament’s two committees on allocations that the president openly announced that municipalities would receive this windfall for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on those already struggling to soften the pressure of government.
Salga and the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFK) appeared before the committees on the adjusted national budget on Thursday.
“To our surprise, we now see that only an additional R11 billion has been allocated to municipalities. This is contrary to what the president promised. We were not given any reasons for that. “
According to Ngubane, the outstanding R9 billion will now come from existing conditional grants to municipalities for water, sanitation and public transport projects that will be prioritized.
“We are now robbing Peter to pay for Paul. What about Pieter being robbed? This is money already allocated to residents that is now being taken back. This is unfair. Projects that have already started must now be stopped. “
However, MPs wanted to know what Salga was going to do with the money, as no extra money could be talked about to municipalities without talking about the auditor general (OG) ‘s damning audit report on them.
Some MPs also wanted to know what Salga is doing to save the countless municipalities from financial collapse.
Earlier this week it was reported how the OG, Kimi Makwetu, expressed his deep concern about the municipal audit report.
In it, a disturbing picture is drawn of most municipalities swallowed up by their debt and unable to pay for water and electricity; or how they collect their debts inaccurately and half-heartedly, and of their unauthorized, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenses.
Only their irregular expenditure amounted to R32.06 billion.
Ngubane said in response that the OG’s report shows that there are serious problems with municipalities. “It creates a gloomy picture that things are falling apart. However, we as Salga do not put our heads in the sand about it and do something to remedy this situation. “
He says Salga has developed a framework and has already written to the guilty mayors and municipal executives to demand stricter accountability and enforcement.
Khomotso Letsatsi, head of municipal finance at Salga, said municipalities would likely have to adjust their budgets due to the Covid 19 pandemic and a fall in revenue.
In addition, consumer municipalities nationwide collectively owe R181 billion for services.
In turn, municipalities owe Eskom a total of R36 billion.
Letsatsi also says there is currently uncertainty about 73 municipalities’ ability to continue as a going concern. 14 municipalities are already technically bankrupt.
Meanwhile, prof. FFK chairman Daniel Plaatjies told the committees that although the state of municipalities is a major concern, it will not help anyone to constantly condemn the municipalities.
He says the country should rather have a conversation about why Eskom and other struggling state entities are always saved by lifebuoys or state guarantees, but not municipalities.
“Municipalities are constitutional structures. But it is always said that Eskom is too big to fail. What about the municipalities? Eskom and municipalities both have historical debt that our people now have to pay. And we still only condemn municipalities, ”Plaatjies argues.