/ 16 October 2023

ANC to ‘assist’ municipalities with unspent grant money

Rubbish litters the landscape of Bekkersdal.
Rubbish litters the landscape of Bekkersdal. (Paul Botes/M&G)

The ANC wants an end to the practice of forcing municipalities that fail to spend their conditional grants to return the unspent funds to the national government.

In the previous financial year alone, municipalities surrendered close to R1 billion back to the National Treasury after failing to spend the funds.

ANC national executive committee (NEC) member and minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Thembi Nkadimeng said returning the funds to the national government was not helpful, particularly given the current state of under-development in some of the country’s municipalities.

“So, what we have resolved is that once we assess a municipality and find that it does not have the capacity to spend, we will step in as the national government and assist the municipality to spend the money,” she said.

Nkadimeng, who was speaking during a media briefing on the sidelines of the ANC NEC three-day meeting that started on Saturday and closes on Monday, said ongoing assessment of municipalities’ performance has revealed that 66 councils across the country were dysfunctional.

“We don’t want them to be where they are — we will support them so that they can be stable,” the minister said.

The municipalities’ failure to deliver was highlighted in a recent census report, which put the number of South Africans who — almost three decades after democracy — continue to use the bucket system, at one million.

The census report came on the back of a National Planning Commission (NPC) assessment, which found that the ANC-led government has failed to meet the bulk of its economic targets, including on job creation, as outlined in the National Development Plan.

There are currently fears within the ANC that the government’s failure to deliver will jeopardise the party’s prospects of winning next year’s general elections.

However, ANC NEC member and deputy Cogta minister Parks Tau described perceptions that the ANC government had not delivered as “inaccurate”.

“The narrative that the ANC government has not delivered has been manufactured by some individuals. Of course, the fact of the matter is that the public out there trust the ANC. How can they not trust a government which brought potable water into their homes?” he said.

The census data or any other objective assessment, Tau said, acknowledged the progress made by the ANC in improving people’s lives.

“It’s a fact that we lost four million jobs during Covid-19. However, post Covid-19 we recovered all those jobs. So, we are satisfied with the level of recovery,” he said.

To ensure that municipalities performed optimally, Tau said the national government was currently strengthening its capacity to intervene in struggling councils.

Interventions to accelerate service delivery at the local government level include the national government’s municipal Eskom debt relief programme, which will ultimately see the debt owed by some municipalities to Eskom written off.

Nkadimeng said the national government was in the process of introducing similar relief to municipalities that owe water boards. Some of the debts owed by municipalities, Nkadimeng said, were old and “irrecoverable”.

This article first appeared in The Witness.