Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is our Municipality Performing?

- Linda Jaquet –

A recent survey has revealed that the majority of Prince Albert residents are unhappy about the lack of communication between the Municipality and the community and the limited options for interaction between two.

Other overriding worries were partisanship in the allocation of work in job creation projects and the lack of employment opportunities. Most interviewed did not think that there was corruption in the Municipality.

Between 7 and 11 September, teams of around 300 Departmental officials visited all the municipalities in the province and went door-to-door to hear first hand from poorer communities how they experience their local governments’ service delivery. This was an assignment, to all provinces, from the National Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Sicelo Shiceka.

Prince Albert residents, as elsewhere in the Western Cape, were asked eight questions covering challenges faced by the community, where the Municipality could improve on service delivery, the role the community could play, and corruption in the Municipality. The Mayor, Cllr Magdalena Benjamin and Speaker, Cllr Stoffel Botes, were also interviewed.

At a press conference in Cape Town on 21 September, Anton Bredell, the MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, discussed the results of the assessment, which provided a snapshot of the state of municipal governance, its provision of basic services and its perceived impact on the community. Bredell said that the critical link and biggest challenge that emerged across the board in all the interviews was the lack of communication “between all role players that form the critical mass of municipalities.” Other problems included governance issues – only four municipalities in the province are governed by an outright majority.

The assessment also found that there was a large gap between how councillors perceive themselves and their role and how the communities regard them. According to Bredell, generally communities felt disconnected from their councillors and complained that they were ineffective and unavailable. People complained of limited public participation and a lack of administrative and political will to make ward or area committees work.

Minister Bredell undertook to stimulate robust debate with municipalities on the role and the effective management of the Community Development Workers (CDWs) and ward committees. He said that this would pave the way for informed decisions about areas where municipalities were lacking in service delivery.

He also announced several concrete steps, including, sharing and discussing each municipality’s assessment and developing a specific municipal action plan; developing a performance plan for councillors; each Speaker implementing and monitoring a municipal public participation and ward committee support plan; investigating allegations of corruption and nepotism; and each municipality developing a socio-economic profile of all its wards.

The Friend intends carrying more about the assessment in its next edition.

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