Cape Town – An inspectorate to fight fraud and corruption in provinces and municipalities has been set up, the acting Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nathi Mthethwa, said on Tuesday.
Briefing the media ahead of his budget vote speech in Parliament, Mthethwa said the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ inspectorate would work closely with the police and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
The department’s Deputy Minister Yunus Carrim said the new inspectorate would complement the Cabinet’s new anti-corruption unit launched in November last year by the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Richard Baloyi.
Carrim said the inspectorate aimed to encourage ethical conduct among councillors, analyse corruption trends and develop strategies from these and to assist municipalities and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and other state agencies to expedite corruption cases.
The inspectorate would be based in Tshwane and an inspector had been appointed.
“We should disabuse ourselves from the notion that somehow councillors and officials at municipal level are more corrupt,” said Carrim, who pointed out that to deal with corruption in local government, it was also necessary to tackle corruption at a national level.
Carrim said the department had also set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to help improve municipalities’ spending on infrastructure.
“Its aim is partly to assist municipalities to more effectively spend the resources that they have, especially as it applies to infrastructure,” he said, adding that the transfer to the SPV would be phased in to ensure a smooth transfer to Cogta of the monies and wouldn’t be an “overnight transfer”.
The SPV would be administered by the department and financed by the National Treasury, and the first transfers were expected to take effect in the next four to six weeks, Carrim said.
He said some of the department’s and other proposals made last year to strengthen local government included ensuring that ward committees weren’t overrun by politicians, but also included civil society members.
Other proposals are to amend the legislation to ensure that municipalities responded to ward committees and giving power to ward committees to fix things such as broken lights and potholes in their ward.
Carrim said the recent local government polls had been “remarkable”, with a voter turnout of 57.54% – the highest in local elections (a 10% increase over the last local elections), in a time when voter turnouts around the world had been dropping.
The Municipal System Amendment Bill, which aims to, among other things, professionalise local government administration and bring uniform standards to municipalities and ensure competent and well qualified officials are appointed, was recently passed by Parliament.
The department will introduce two new bills to Parliament this financial year – the Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill and the National Traditional Affairs Bill.
Mthethwa said the Community Work Programme had been significantly scaled up in the last financial year, with 89 698 work opportunities created between April last year and March.
“The programme is implemented in 56 sites spread throughout all the nine provinces across 45 municipalities covering 417 wards,” he said.
The department will transfer R11.4 billion of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant to municipalities and work closer with the office of the Auditor-general to monitor municipal spending patterns, to ensure that more communities have access to basic services, he said.
Mthethwa said traditional affairs would get R83.7 million – up from R74 million last year.
He said an assessment of the state of governance within the area of traditional affairs revealed that support to institutions of traditional leadership is minimal in most provinces and that there were generally poor relations between councillors at municipalities and traditional leaders.
Mthethwa said he didn’t know when the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, who is on extended sick leave, would return to the work, but pointed out that the government was continuing the work of the department. – BuaNews