The poor audit results for most municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal could have been clearly predicted by consulting a host of publicly available data sources that have been published over the past five years.
Ongoing patronage networks, political instability, theft and deployed executives who cannot perform basic duties have contributed to precipitating 2020/2021 results.
Audit results are indicators of a municipality‘s relative health and stability. In KwaZulu-Natal, the municipalities with the best audit results have consistently received unqualified or unqualified audit opinions over the past five years. Here, the rural municipality of Okhahlamba leads the way, with five consecutive positive audit opinions, indicating a good degree of political and administrative stability at the time of the audits.
Of the 10 municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal with the worst audit results, eight are under administration.
A dive into the annual report on the state of local government published by the national treasury shows that all the worst performing municipalities have been flagged as being “in financial difficulty” by the national office since at least 2016.
According to Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke’s latest report, only 22% of KwaZulu-Natal’s 54 provincial municipalities have submitted good quality annual financial statements, and 38, or 70%, have failed to rein in irregular spending.
Maluleke said the main problems are political instability, weak or inconsequential management, poor financial controls and inexperienced officials who are forced to rely on consultants for the most basic tasks.
Other than Okhahlamba, the other top performing municipalities were uMhlathuze Municipality and King Cetshwayo District Municipality (formerly known as uThungulu), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Ray Nkonyeni and uMuziwabantu.
They all performed well in areas such as compliance, record keeping, expense control, supply chain management and risk management.
10 worst performing municipalities
The 10 worst performing municipalities scored negatively in almost all of these areas. These were Abaqulusi, Msunduzi, uThukela District, Inkosi Langalibalele, Nquthu, uMkhanyakude District, Mtubatuba, Mooi-Mpofana and uMzinyathi District.
If the list of worst performers is expanded, it includes Ulundi, Ugu District and Newcastle which, along with Mooi-Mpofana, uThukela, Msunduzi and uMkhanyakude, have been highlighted by the AG as municipalities for which there is ” significant doubt as to their ability”. continue to operate as a going concern for the foreseeable future.”
Financial distress has been repeatedly reported since 2016
According to the State of Local Government Report, each of the municipalities designated as the worst performers in the province had at some point, and in some cases repeatedly, been flagged between 2016 and 2020 as being in financial difficulty.
To be considered in financial difficulty, a municipality must obtain a negative score on seven of the 13 indicators. According to the assessment of the 13 indicators, municipalities in financial difficulty are generally characterized by poor cash management, an increase in accounts receivable and creditors, as well as insufficient repairs and maintenance of infrastructure. Most of these municipalities have a history of unfunded budgets and rejected audit opinions.
The municipalities reported by the GA, and which are under administration, are Abaquulusi, Msunduzi, uThukela, Inkosi Langalibalele, Nquthu, uMkhanyakude, Mtubatuba, Mooi-Mpofana and uMzinyathi.
Msunduzi, uThukela and uMkhanyakude have been under administration twice since 2000, while Abaqulusi, Nquthu, Mtubatuba, Mooi-Mpofana and uMzinyathi have been under administration three or more times.
Msunduzi, uThukela, Mpofana, Abaquulusi and Mtubatuba have remained under administration since the 2018/19 financial year.
The results of the 2020/21 audit cover the period of previous political administrations whose terms ended in November 2021 when local elections were held across the country.
The ANC has lost a great deal to the coalitions led by the IFP
While this year’s package would have no bearing on the election results which saw many ANC-governed councils in KwaZulu-Natal become IFP-led coalition governments, it is clear that issues such as visibly poor service delivery and collapsing infrastructure influenced citizens to shift their votes from the ANC, or simply not vote.
For the ANC, this loss of support is not just limited to its poorly performing municipalities, but also to the best performing ones, pointing to a much wider problem for the crumbling party.
The ANC lost the 52% majority it had won in 2016 in Okhahlamba (Bergville) and collapsed to 29% in 2021. It managed to retain the council with a very thin coalition.
The ruling party suffered a similar fate to uMhlathuze (Richards Bay) falling from a peak of 63% in 2016 to 40% in 2021. In this case, an IFP coalition took control. The ANC however managed to retain control of the municipality of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, albeit with another massively reduced majority of 54%, down from 81%.
And although the ANC-led provincial government won’t admit it, there has also been a marked increase in pressure from the MEC-led KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Sipho Hlomuka, to enforce aggressive surveillance over party municipalities. no longer controls, with a noticeably lighter touch on those controlled by ANC.
A clear example is that of Ugu district, which is responsible for the catastrophic water crisis on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, once a favorite local and international tourist destination. The district has struggled with water supply for over a decade.
Opposition-led councils challenge attempts to put them under administration
Ugu has yet to be placed in administration despite being one of those flagged by the Auditor General as having doubts about its future as a going concern. But the municipalities tightly controlled by the IFP, in which by-elections could swing power, are almost constantly under the whip.
This in turn led opposition-led councils to legally challenge any attempt by the provincial government to place them under administration under Section 139 of the Constitution.
In a May 2022 session of the National Council of Provinces that focused on Article 139 interventions, KZN Cogta said that he “noted a growing trend of some municipalities resisting Section 139(1)(b) interventions by going to court, a case in point being the municipalities of Abaqulusi, EMadlangeni and Nquthu” .
These are all controlled by the IFP.
Currently in northern KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC-led government is using its resources, through the courts, to help restore its leadership in the districts of Mtubatuba and uMkhanyakude, which were deposed in February and May respectively. by votes of no confidence and replaced by the IFP. – led coalition leadership teams.
KZN ANC increasingly polarized in pro-RET and pro-reform camps
The ANC has an increasingly polarized and polarizing political dynamic in the KZN that essentially places members in two camps – those who support former President Jacob Zuma, or at least his stated ideology, of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) , and those who support the dominant administration. and its ideology, marketed as being more progressive and anti-corruption. If the latter has been acclaimed by the media, patronage networks still exist in the two “camps”.
This is not uncommon elsewhere in the country, but in KwaZulu-Natal, allegiances can and do exacerbate already high levels of dissatisfaction. The July 2021 riots are an example of this.
According to the report of the presidential panel that investigated the eight days of looting, arson and rampant crime:[T]he crisis of politics, epitomized by the violent ructions of July 2021, should also send a clear message that when political rivals choose violence over dissent under the rule of law, it is ordinary members of society. which become collateral damage.
In addition, there have been several documented incidents where city officials have colluded with senior ANC RET leaders and their rent seekers, which include a volatile organized crime pseudo-network known as the “forums of crime”. ‘business’, to use violence and other coercive tactics to fight the public. – the construction contracts in the sector which should have been the subject of a call for tenders.
Currently, the most prominent example of this is the criminal case against the former mayor of eThekwini, Zandile Gumede, and various co-defendants. This case is expected to go to trial in July. DM
Note: Municipalities and districts (which contain a number of municipalities) are audited separately, so the result of a municipality’s audit does not necessarily correspond to the district it is part of.