The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) has set its sights on tackling underspending by distressed and dysfunctional municipalities.  

As part of the department’s implementation of the recovery programme to assist these municipalities, CoGTA Minister Zweli Mkhize criss-crossed the country, visiting affected municipalities to root out the challenges.

One of the key focus areas identified for the intervention programme was financial management and assisting municipalities that were on the back foot as a result of underspending their Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIG).

“In the past five years, since 2012/13, a total of R3.4 billion in MIG transfers was stopped and was reallocated from underspending municipalities to better spending municipalities. This was not ideal, as it tended to penalise municipalities with a lower capacity and hence punishing the poorer communities,” Mkhize explained.

“This is why we have decided to institute this programme. We want to solve once and for all the problem of money being sent back due to failure to spend it by municipalities,” he said.

The programme follows a report by Auditor General Kimi Makwetu detailing the dire state of municipalities, with 87 municipalities classified as dysfunctional.

Improving technical support

As part of the intervention CoGTA through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) recently appointed 81 new engineers and town planners in an effort to assist distressed municipalities to get back on track.

As part of youth development, MISA also appointed 62 young graduates in civil engineering, electrical engineering, town and regional planning, project and construction management as well as solid waste management fields.

Mkhize noted that the department’s recruitment programme is ongoing and MISA has advertised for more engineers and town planners to fill existing vacancies as the MISA organogram makes provision for 150 technical experts.