Governance Of Local Affairs

Municipalities govern on a four year basis and run local affairs including service delivery of basic services. This raises concerns about the ability of many poorer municipalities to deliver the services for which they are responsible. A low revenue base, compounded by a lack of capacity to collect taxes, cases of corruption, lack of qualified municipal staff and financial mismanagement are all contributory factors. This is impacting on improving and maintaining local infrastructure, such as roads, sanitation and water supply.

The Government is in the process of reviewing the system of provincial and local government and a white paper relating to this issue was expected at the end of 2007 and has not yet been published.

There is a call for papers to support the 2009 State of Local Government Research (SoLG). The purpose of this research project is to “produce a regular civil society-based assessment of the key challenges, debates and areas of progress with regard to governance and development at the local level in South Africa. It also aims to provide local government policy-makers and practitioners with practical recommendations to improve policy, guidelines, systems and interventions where necessary”.

This research follows the initial SoLG project: “Local Democracy in Action: A Civil Society Perspective on Local Governance in South Africa”. This was the culmination of months of research by the members of the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN), which provided local government policy-makers and practitioners with practical recommendations to improve policy, systems, guidelines and interventions. The theme for the annual SoLG report for 2009 is “Ethical Leadership & Political Culture in Local Government”. This follows the findings of the 2008 report, which acknowledged the role of local leadership as “being crucial in addressing some of the developmental state’s numerous challenges”.

The 2008 SoLG report found that administrators and non-executive councillors often complained that “par ty caucuses made the real decisions; that council debates were orchestrated and unlikely to have any real impact on final decisions; and that politicians blamed the administrators for poor implementation of sound policy and in turn the administrators blame the politicians for making policy that cannot be practically implemented.”

The GGLN confirms that high ethical standards are the cornerstone of good governance. If democracy is to be promoted, it is essential that governance at all levels must be ethical. Ethical governance focuses on the standards of conduct of all holders of public office, including financial and commercial activities.

Leadership is required in creating an overall framework and direction and as an example of the values and ethos of governing. This creates commitment to good governance and builds confidence in those stakeholders who are involved in supporting development.

The 2008 report confirms that South Africa has an extensive framework of anti-corruption legislation and policy. This report acknowledges that surveys indicate that the public perceive local government to be a “hotbed of corruption”. The report confirmed that the major source of corruption is tenders and procurement procedures. This is compounded by misadministration, which is manifest in poor management and governance, particularly over financial and reporting matters.


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