Political Analyst, Bongani Mahlangu says empowering citizens will deepen democracy and uphold accountability in municipalities.
This follows the adverse findings of the Auditor General, Tsakani Maluleke, in her consolidated general report on the local government audit outcomes for the financial year of 2021/2022.
Maluleke found that only 38 municipalities out of 257 achieved clean audits, and municipalities racked up R 4.74 billion in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and R25 billion in unauthorised expenditure.
The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) has called on municipalities that received poor audit outcomes, to turn around their financial management and governance.
Mahlangu says in order to curb fruitless, wasteful and unauthorised expenditure, active participation of communities is required.
He elaborates, “I believe the most important thing here, because I have little faith in the structures, you need active citizens. If you look into the Auditor General’s accountability ecosystem where she gave that graph of presentation as to how the accountability must look like and you find that at the bottom of the graph is active citizenry ad that’s actually the most [important ]thing. Systems and structures of government have produced this problem and little power has been given to citizens. We must inform and educate our citizens with regards to all these audit outcomes so that they’re able to be more active in the municipalities.”
He adds that support structures such as SALGA and the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) have a role to play in ensuring they identify problems as soon as they encounter them and embark on necessary interventions accordingly.
Mahlangu says oversight structures should request municipalities for Annual Performance Plans (APP), and those without APPs should state why they do not have them and those who submit these plans, the APPs should be analysed for feasibility, correct allocation of funds and to ensure that items presented in the plans are achieved in that financial year.
He adds that support ought to be given to councillors to empower them.
“Usually what happens is that you become a councillor due to your ability to sing in your ward and then now your ability to sing and not necessarily to read, to write, to reason, to analyse and do all those things get you into council. Then you are presented with IDP’s, SDBIP’s , reports on this and reports on that and this individual cannot cope,” says Mahlangu.