From the 6th to 8th of October I attended the 85th conference of the Institute of Municipal Finance Officers (IMFO) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
The report from Pravin Gordon Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs was hard hitting but honest. That the vast majority of municipalities are unable to secure clean audits was oddly the least of South Africa’s problems. The slow economic growth rate of less than 2.3% and increasing demand for unsustainable free service delivery is fast becoming a reality. That the latest version of capitalism was deliberately increasing inequality and the automation of jobs was a recipe for disaster.
The systematic political instability in municipalities, the lack of political leadership and extensive ineptitude remained key issues during the discussions. The conference was not without its moments when Minister Gordon said that some municipalities achieved clean audits because they did so little in terms of actual service delivery that there was nothing to find. According to the Minister Gordon a recent survey suggested that most Gauteng residents thought that government officials are corrupt.
Concepts like back to basics was one theme that was thrown about as it became apparent that 178 out of 278 municipalities did not have suitably qualified finance officials. A third of all municipalities were actually dysfunctional and there was irregular expenditure of R11.6 billion last year.
This infuriated students from Pretoria as they enquired how unqualified officials were hired as qualified black graduates could not find work. Ironically, political nepotism is having a catastrophic impact on service delivery amongst the poorest citizens.
Thus the challenge for work in the future will not just be between blacks and others but also amid unqualified connected blacks and qualified but unconnected blacks. In many cases ratepayers are paying twice for the same work as inept officials pay consultants to do the work. With an annual budget of R320 billion, municipalities are big businesses.
This may be one reason why consultants had no problem sponsoring all the free products in my free notebook bag, all at the expense of the ratepayer.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress