Professional skills deficit and cadre deployment responsible for persistent dismal municipal audit outcomes

Issued by Cilliers Brink MP – DA Shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
15 Jun 2022 in News

The presentation by the Auditor General (A-G), Tsakani Maluleke, on the 2020/2021 municipal audit outcomes re-affirmed the Western Cape’s position as a Province of excellence on local government financial administration. The A-G acknowledged that “…the firm leadership tone and strong control environment contributed to positive outcomes [in the Western Cape]…”.

With 22 municipalities receiving clean audits, the highest by any Province, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) model of good governance can be replicated in failing municipalities, most of which are ANC run, through an active process of strict application of professionalism and zero tolerance to cadre deployment.

The A-G made the disturbing conclusion that most municipalities in the 2020/2021 cycle have regressed on prudent financial management due to leadership instability, lack of accountability, financial governance weaknesses, ineffective provincial interventions, lack of institutionalised preventative controls, compromised accountability and general poor performance.

The Free State, Northern Cape and Northwest west singled out as the country’s worst performing provinces largely due to either failing to submit financial statements on time or not submitting at all. This finding is consistent with the continued decline in service delivery that residents in these Provinces encounter on a daily basis.

A good starting point to fix this mess should be an expedited signing into law of the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill (MSAB) of 2019 by the President and an extension of support to the DA’s End Cadre Deployment Bill, which is currently before Parliament. The MSAB is the closest that that Parliament has come to acknowledging and counteracting the practice of cadre deployment.

If President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the MSAB into law, all municipal officials, from the municipal manager to general workers, will have a grace period of one year to resign from any elected or appointed position held in a political party. This includes chairpersons, deputy chairpersons, secretaries, and even co-opted members of party committees.

Section 197 of the constitution is clear about the need for a professional and politically impartial public service. It is time we bring national legislation in line with this constitutional principle, the hallmark of a capable state.

Any talk of intervention to stop persistent financial mismanagement in municipalities will come to nothing if the same unqualified cadres continue to occupy positions that they are not qualified for. This skills deficit, brought about by cadre deployment, has placed these municipalities on the verge of collapse with the A-G warning that some of them are about to cease functioning as going concerns.

The DA is currently working on a comprehensive package of proposals that would act as a blueprint to stop the decline in failed municipalities across the country. The package will present key interventions that are anchored on professionalization of municipal administration, prudent financial management, competitive and transparent procurement and service delivery optimization.