North West takeover no sim­ple task

It’s the first time a whole prov­ince has been placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the devil is in the de­tail

Mail & Guardian - - Business - Lyn­ley Don­nelly

Na­tional gov­ern­ment’s use of sec­tion 100 of the Con­sti­tu­tion to take over the fail­ing North West prov­ince is not a panacea, civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives say and it’s too soon to say whether it will yield bet­ter re­sults than sim­i­lar pre­vi­ous in­ter­ven­tions.

A brief­ing by Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Nkosazana DlaminiZuma, who leads the in­ter­min­is­te­rial task team for North West, at­tempted to shed light on how the gov­ern­ment’s takeover of the prov­ince will take ef­fect.

On Wed­nes­day, Dlamini-Zuma said “fact-find­ing” work was on­go­ing, and that na­tional min­is­ters with equiv­a­lent de­part­ments in the prov­ince will as­sess whether to in­voke sec­tion 100 (1) (a) or the more in­va­sive sec­tion 100 (1) (b) of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The jus­tice and se­cu­rity clus­ter has been tasked with con­duct­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions where mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion or cor­rup­tion are sus­pected, she said, and glar­ing con­tra­ven­tions of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act will be re­ferred to law en­force­ment agen­cies.

Although de­part­ments in var­i­ous prov­inces have been placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion in the past, this is the first time an en­tire prov­ince has been.

North West has seen vi­o­lent protests re­cently, pre­cip­i­tated by the state of its health­care sys­tem, which has all but col­lapsed. Be­fore the de­ci­sion to in­ter­vene in the en­tire pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, the health depart­ment was placed un­der a sec­tion 100(1)(b) in­ter­ven­tion. Un­der this clause na­tional gov­ern­ment takes over the prov­ince’s obli­ga­tions.

But a sec­tion 100 in­ter­ven­tion “is not a panacea”, said Rus­sell Rens­burg of the Ru­ral Health Ad­vo­cacy Project (RHAP). “The in­tent of a sec­tion 100 is to sta­bilise a depart­ment or, in this case, a prov­ince, to en­sure it de­liv­ers on its man­date and does not de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther.”

How ef­fec­tive the process would be, he said, would de­pend on how the in­ter­ven­tion is de­signed. The RHAP’s in­ter­ac­tion with the health process sug­gested it would be a “sys­tem-wide re­sponse to the chal­lenges around health” and go beyond sim­ply sta­bil­is­ing the prov­ince, said Rens­burg.

Pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions

Past in­ter­ven­tions in Lim­popo and Mpumalanga had not shown sus­tained re­sults, he con­tin­ued.

Sec­tion 100 in­ter­ven­tions were of­ten about sta­bil­is­ing fi­nances and im­prov­ing of­fi­cials’ abil­ity, then hand­ing the depart­ment back to them, said Rens­burg. This was com­pli­cated by the ques­tion of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion, he added.

“So the gains are not sus­tained over time, and the ca­pac­ity that is strength­ened is eroded,” he said.

One of the largest sec­tion 100 in­ter­ven­tions took place in Lim­popo in 2011 and sev­eral pro­vin­cial de­part­ments, in­clud­ing health and ed­u­ca­tion, were placed un­der the con­trol of the na­tional gov­ern­ment. But in a re­port to the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces, Anis Kar­o­dia, the ad­min­is­tra­tor for the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, de­tailed prob­lems that can arise in such in­ter­ven­tions.

In a re­port writ­ten in 2012, he noted “threats and nonco-op­er­a­tion” from staff in the Lim­popo depart­ment, and com­plained of poor in­ter­ac­tions, par­tic­u­larly with se­nior man­age­ment. “Many of them refuse to un­der­stand that the Lim­popo depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion is un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion and … tech­ni­cally bank­rupt and felt that the … sec­tion 100 (1) (b) in­ter­ven­tion is com­pletely un­nec­es­sary.”

The de­part­ments were un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion for three years but the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment is still gar­ner­ing con­tro­versy, in­clud­ing over pit toi­lets in schools.

Sarah Seph­ton, the re­gional di­rec­tor for the Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre, which has worked on ed­u­ca­tion in the East­ern Cape, said that, un­less the pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials’ fi­nan­cial pow­ers were re­moved, the ad­min­is­tra­tor would have no power, par­tic­u­larly if there was no po­lit­i­cal will to co-op­er­ate. “You’ve im­me­di­ately got a prob­lem if the ac­count­ing of­fi­cer is dif­fer­ent to the [ad­min­is­tra­tor],” she said.

In the East­ern Cape, placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2011, she said the in­ter­ven­tion was so “lack­lus­tre” that it ul­ti­mately fell to the high court to clar­ify in 2016 whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion was in fact still in place. The depart­ment of plan­ning, mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion, which is lead­ing the task team in North West, did not re­spond ques­tions about whether na­tional gov­ern­ment has the fi­nan­cial and hu­man re­sources to nav­i­gate such an in­ter­ven­tion, and crit­i­cisms that past in­ter­ven­tions had not sus­tained re­sults.

Mu­nic­i­pal cri­sis

The state of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in North West adds an­other layer of com­plex­ity to the gov­ern­ment’s ac­tion.

The Con­sti­tu­tion, un­der sec­tion 139, makes pro­vi­sion for lo­cal gov­ern­ments to be placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion by pro­vin­cial au­thor­i­ties. But where pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment fails to do so, the na­tional gov­ern­ment can in­ter­vene.

Twelve of North West’s 22 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have been iden­ti­fied as dis­tressed. But, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional depart­ment of co-op­er­a­tive gover­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs, none of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will be placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In­stead, a di­rec­tive will be is­sued to the pro­vin­cial depart­ment of co-op­er­a­tive gover­nance, in terms of sec­tion 100(1)(a), “to pro­vide ded­i­cated sup­port to the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­der dis­tress, with spe­cific time­frames and spe­cific de­liv­er­ables”, the depart­ment said.

The Demo­cratic Al­liance’s Kevin Mile­ham said the prov­ince’s mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are em­blem­atic of a wider cri­sis at lo­cal gov­ern­ment level. In a re­cent par­lia­men­tary re­ply to Mile­ham, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene said that 43% of the coun­try’s mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties had un­funded bud­gets.

Mile­ham said: “What that means is that they have bud­geted for more ex­pen­di­ture than rev­enue, which is un­sus­tain­able.”

He said this sit­u­a­tion high­lighted the need to re­vive the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Mon­i­tor­ing Sup­port and In­ter­ven­tions Bill, which was first proposed in 2013. The Bill was sup­posed to clar­ify ques­tions about these kinds of in­ter­ven­tions.

In his bud­get vote speech, Min­is­ter of Co-op­er­a­tive Gover­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs Zweli Mkhize said that 31% of the coun­try’s mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are con­sid­ered “dys­func­tional or dis­tressed” but only 11 na­tion­ally have so far been placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Given the ex­tent of the cri­sis, the lack of in­ter­ven­tion at lo­cal gov­ern­ment level was “shock­ing”, Mile­ham said.

But Mkhize said his depart­ment would em­bark on an ag­gres­sive turn­around strat­egy to ad­dress the de­cline in lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

“To build func­tional mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties na­tion­wide, we have de­cided to ini­ti­ate an in­ten­sive re­cov­ery pro­gramme, which en­com­passes a pack­age of clus­tered sup­port in three fo­cus ar­eas, namely gover­nance, ser­vice de­liv­ery and fi­nan­cial man­age­ment.”

Min­is­ter Zweli Mkhize said that 31% of the coun­try’s mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are con­sid­ered “dys­func­tional or dis­tressed”

On­go­ing: Min­is­ter Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the in­ter­min­is­te­rial task team for North West say factfind­ing to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the prov­ince’s prob­lems is a work in progress. Photo: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

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