Fo­cus on in­fra­struc­ture in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties

Public Sector Manager - - Contents - Writer: More Mat­shediso

A new par­a­digm shift is needed to ad­dress the in­fras­truc­tural chal­lenges con­fronting mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties

For the past two decades of South Africa's democ­racy, gov­ern­ment has fo­cused on achiev­ing univer­sal ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices but it has be­come im­per­a­tive that equal fo­cus now be given to im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

This is ac­cord­ing to the Pres­i­dent of the South African Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (SALGA), Parks Tau, who said the cur­rent state of in­fra­struc­ture in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties is un­der heavy strain and suf­fers from years of ne­glect and lim­ited main­te­nance.

He re­cently ad­dressed more than 400 del­e­gates which in­cluded mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers and of­fi­cials, mem­bers of par­lia­ment, in­dus­try ex­perts and key stake­hold­ers in lo­cal gov­ern­ment in­fra­struc­ture, dur­ing the Mu­nic­i­pal In­no­va­tion In­fra­struc­ture Fi­nanc­ing Con­fer­ence (MIIF) held in Ekurhu­leni, Gaut­eng.

Tau called for a new par­a­digm shift in or­der to ad­dress the in­fras­truc­tural chal­lenges con­fronting mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“The whole sphere of lo­cal gov­ern­ment needs to re­think its ap­proach to the kind of in­fra­struc­ture that we in­vest in and start to fo­cus more on cli­mate-proof­ing in­vest­ments to al­low for longer use­ful life and bet­ter re­turn on in­vest­ment,” said Tau.

“With the in­creas­ing dy­namic of in­ward mi­gra­tion, mush­room­ing of in­for­mal set­tle­ments, in­creased pop­u­la­tion size, ur­ban­i­sa­tion, cli­mate change and new tech­nolo­gies, we have to take stock of whether our cur­rent in­fra­struc­ture can with­stand these chal­lenges,” he added.

Tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity

He said lo­cal gov­ern­ment has to

deal with the chal­lenge of build­ing the tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity within, to master the art of project prepa­ra­tion in or­der to ex­e­cute in­fra­struc­ture projects.

SALGA or­gan­ised the three-day MIIF con­fer­ence to em­power the sec­tor to mo­bilise fi­nan­cial re­sources from out­side their cur­rent bud­gets and fi­nanc­ing in­stru­ments to over­come in­fras­truc­tural chal­lenges.

The con­fer­ence called for the pri­vate sec­tor to pro­pose con­crete mea­sures to as­sist mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with value-for-money anal­y­sis and to as­sist in de­vel­op­ing pro­cure­ment doc­u­ments and project con­ces­sion agree­ments.

SALGA has a mem­ber­ship of 257 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties na­tion­ally. Mem­ber­ship is vol­un­tary.

The as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sents, pro­motes and pro­tects the in­ter­ests of lo­cal gov­ern­ments and raises the pro­file of lo­cal gov­ern­ment, among other ob­jec­tives. It has a duty to in­spire mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to bet­ter de­liver ser­vices be­cause mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties must in­spire the con­fi­dence of cit­i­zens who have en­trusted them with this vi­tal role.

Although South Africa is 24 years into democ­racy, the cur­rent struc­ture of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties was only cre­ated to­wards the year 2000, which means lo­cal gov­ern­ment is only 18 years old and still at an evo­lu­tion stage.

Ear­lier this year, dur­ing the Bud­get Speech of the Na­tional Trea­sury, it was an­nounced that R13.9 bil­lion would be stripped from lo­cal gov­ern­ment in­fra­struc­ture grants.

Tau said this was largely in­formed by the fact that de­spite the need, some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are still un­able to prop­erly plan and ex­e­cute their projects, re­sult­ing in un­der­spend­ing of these grants.

“This should be of con­cern to all of us. As mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, we should not be seek­ing ac­cess to fi­nan­cial mar­kets and other lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions when we have the in­abil­ity to spend what we have,” he said.

In­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene was also at the con­fer­ence to add his voice to the is­sue of in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

He said the man­ner in which mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties look af­ter their in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing roads, elec­tric­ity and wa­ter, to men­tion just a few, had a huge bear­ing on qual­ity of life.

Min­is­ter Nene said all eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity takes place within the bound­aries of a mu­nic­i­pal­ity; there­fore the qual­ity of mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture mat­ters for the per­for­mance of the coun­try's econ­omy.

“We know only too well of the back­logs in the build­ing of new and main­te­nance of ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

“If we are to raise the pace at which our econ­omy grows and elim­i­nate the lega­cies of apartheid, we must fix mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties; in par­tic­u­lar, their abil­ity to build and main­tain in­fra­struc­ture,” the Min­is­ter added.

Deputy Min­is­ter of Co­op­er­a­tive Gover­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs An­dries Nel said only 55 of SALGA's 257 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have a qual­i­fied en­gi­neer.

“We must in­ter­vene and we are in­ter­ven­ing. Our Mu­nic­i­pal In­fra­struc­ture Sup­port Agent (MISA) has been in­structed to con­sti­tute

tech­ni­cal sup­port teams to sup­port 55 of the 87 pri­or­ity dis­tressed mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” he said.

“Each dis­trict sup­port team will in­clude en­gi­neers, con­struc­tion and project man­agers, fi­nan­cial ac­coun­tants, town and re­gional plan­ners, and gover­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­perts as needed,” Min­is­ter Nene added.

MISA's man­date is to pro­vide sup­port and de­velop tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity to­wards sus­tained ac­cel­er­ated mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vice de­liv­ery.

It must pro­vide lead­er­ship, strate­gic di­rec­tion, man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion ser­vices to the or­gan­i­sa­tion and pro­vide tech­ni­cal sup­port to tar­geted mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which will im­prove in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning, im­ple­men­ta­tion as well as op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance.

Ef­fi­cient ser­vice de­liv­ery

MISA also man­ages the de­ploy­ment of pro­fes­sional ser­vice providers to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, en­sur­ing that suf­fi­cient tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity is built within mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which will re­sult in ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient ser­vice de­liv­ery in the long term.

It also pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive generic strate­gic sup­port to the tech­ni­cal sup­port and ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes.

By De­cem­ber, all dis­tressed mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are ex­pected to have a tech­ni­cal sup­port team in place and the teams will be ex­pected to de­velop per­ma­nent ca­pac­ity in these mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to en­sure that in­fra­struc­ture funds are ac­tu­ally spent and that they are spent ef­fi­ciently, ef­fec­tively and ac­count­ably.

Roland Hen­wood, a lec­turer in pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, stressed that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties need more than just money in or­der to not ne­glect in­fra­struc­ture and to keep it main­tained.

He said plan­ning ahead and pre­par­ing for the fu­ture is of para­mount im­por­tance for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to con­tinue de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing in­fra­struc­ture so that the de­liv­ery of ser­vices is not im­pacted.

“If we look for­ward to 2035, we are go­ing to need nine times more schools, roads, clin­ics and other phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in metro mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties be­cause more peo­ple are flood­ing in as years go by. We can­not just keep get­ting more peo­ple into the met­ros with­out ex­pand­ing our in­fra­struc­ture, it will be a dis­as­ter,” he ex­plained.

Hen­wood added that with­out im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture, it will be al­most im­pos­si­ble to de­liver ser­vices to the peo­ple be­cause lo­cal gov­ern­ment is the sphere at which gov­ern­ment de­liv­ers ser­vices di­rectly to peo­ple.

Hen­wood agreed with Tau that in­fra­struc­ture in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties has been ne­glected.

He said in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture is not only about the phys­i­cal struc­tures but also hir­ing ex­perts who will be pro­fes­sional about build­ing and main­tain­ing the struc­tures.

Pres­i­dent of the South African Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, Parks Tau.

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