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The South African Local Government Association (Salga) is concerned about the high number of section 139 interventions in municipalities, and has called for an assessment on the effectiveness of these mechanisms.

Speaking during a planning session of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Salga and the provincial legislatures, the President of Salga, Councillor Thembi Nkadimeng, said there was a need to reflect on the efficiency of the process of placing struggling municipalities under administration through section 139 of the Constitution, in an effort to restore good governance and sound financial management.

Section 139 of the Constitution empowers a provincial government to intervene when a municipality cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation. And as part of the support system in terms of intergovernmental relations, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has to be notified about any intentions by a province to implement section 139.

“We remain concerned about the rising tide of section 139 interventions and court judgments against national and provincial governments that are encroaching increasingly into the powers and functions of local government.

“It is something that we would like to highlight as part of the programme for this year, to ensure that the institutional integrity of local government is not only preserved, but strengthened to expedite our developmental mandate,” she said.

Councillor Nkadimeng, who is also the Executive Mayor of Polokwane Local Municipality on oversight, accountability and good governance, said Salga in partnership with the NCOP, want to sustain the gains made in the last term of office by improving oversight in municipalities through building the capacity of Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs).

“As you may be aware, all provinces have MPACs for their municipalities, with Salga providing capacity building support to MPACs’ members, with our emphasis now shifting to the quality of oversight and accountability. The impact of the work of MPACs continue to show positive results though improved audit outcomes for the sector. The only outstanding issue remaining is to formalise MPACs through legislation.

“I’m sure that the sixth NCOP will be seized with the Amendments to the Structures Act, which include a chapter on the establishment of MPACs, but also that of Whips at local government level,” she said.

Commenting on the recent audit outcomes of municipalities which painted a dire picture of financial management in municipalities, the Salga President agreed that “there is a lot of wrongs” in this sector.

Other delegates in the workshop also supported the call to review the section 139 interventions, saying currently there over 40 interventions across the country, others arguing that some municipalities were left worse off after the interventions.

By Sakhile Mokoena

21 August 2019