Salga delegates vow to uphold duties as public servants

The South African Local Government Association has ended a four-day conference in Sandton.

Outgoing Salga Chairperson Councillor Thabo Manayoni together with the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Salga

JOHANNESBURG – Local government association Salga has concluded its fifth national conference in Sandton, with a declaration by over 966 delegates to uphold their duties as public servants within their respective municipalities.

The group has resolved to prioritise service delivery and committing to a more inclusive government system, while dealing with some of the challenges faced in implementing institutional functions and policies.

The poor performance of some municipalities like the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Oliver Tambo District, not excluding state owned entities such as railway agency Pr asa have been under fire since the release of the Auditor-General’s 2014/15 financial year report, for the irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure of billions of rand.

And while these entities are now having to account for the mismanagement of public resources, government representatives insist that for all their challenges local government does in fact work.

Of the 257 municipalities across the country 218 confirmed their participation at the conference this year, kicking off events with an address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa who came down hard on the minority of those municipalities he says ‘give local government a bad name’ has also called on councilors to adopt a genuine and shared commitment to the values of the South African constitution.

“We have experience of councillors who are detached from their constituents, neglectful of their duties and wasteful with public resources. But, we must hasten to add, these councillors are in the minority. For all its challenges, local government works.”

He has commended municipalities that have made significant progress and says these should seek creative ways to ensure the efficient use of resources.

“We have shifted from a tradition of local governance that lacked transparency and facilitated the abuse of power and corruption. These are municipalities that are skilled at mobilising a broad section of society behind their people-centred vision. They are capable and developmental because they invest in the organisational and technical capacity of their administrations to effectively implement pro-poor policies.”

Those attending the conference have resolved to find solutions around what they believe to be ‘serious structural and systemic challenges’ that need to be addressed.

Salga says its acknowledged that many municipalities remain seriously under-funded, with no sufficient national transfers to fund free basic service policies, or to attract the necessary capacity to provide sustainable services.

In his address on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said: “At all levels of government, public finances are under strain, limiting the scope for further social spending and increased infrastructure investment. Recent events within the state have raised concern in many quarters about the direction of the country and the stability of its institutions.
As the elected representatives of the people of South Africa – wherever we may serve and whatever position we may occupy we share an abiding responsibility to answer these challenges.”

The organisation says it’s also noted the disruptive impact of the high turnover of councillors and senior management after elections, and has called on political parties and municipalities to maintain a healthy balance between injecting new employees into the system and the imperative of leadership stability.

It’s heard a call by NGO Gender Links for equal representation, particularly at ward level in municipalities.

The organisation says a speedy resolution is needed to solve a current impasse between Salga (its members) and Eskom concerning the lack of service delivery agreements in areas where Eskom reticulates electricity which they believe continues to undermine both the authority and revenue collection of municipalities.

Closing the event, Parks Tau has been elected as president of the local government association uncontested.

Tau has congratulated the now former head Thabo Manyoni for his work over the last five years, including the achievement of four consecutive clean audits and averaging over a 90% performance outcome against predetermined objectives, significant gains in the policy and legislative space.

Addressing his vision going forward, Tau said: “During our term, we will therefore focus on Salga’s role as protector to enforce the rights of local government much more robustly, and constructively disrupt in a positive sense where the existing overall system - legislative, fiscal, policy, institutional - makes it impossible for local government to deliver on its mandate.”

Tau was recently elected President of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).

In the meantime, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen says he has been engaged by Cabinet ministers to explore means of supporting Salga in various ways, including but not limited to financial support, as well as with intergovernmental partners with respect to reforms that must be put in place to strengthen local government.

WATCH: Imagining a new future for local government

Visit EWN's special municipal spending portal - created in partnership with the Auditor-General - to see how your taxes are being spent at local government level.