Deputy Public Protector pleads with Gauteng municipalities to take accountability serious
Deputy Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka on Tuesday appealed to Gauteng local government authorities to cooperate with investigations and comply with remedial action, cautioning that submitting to accountability processes was not optional.
Adv. Gcaleka was addressing a virtual strategic planning session of the Gauteng chapter of the South African Local Government Association on the importance of ethics and accountability at the local sphere of government.
She complained that some municipalities in the province tended to cancel crucial scheduled meetings and Alternative Dispute Resolution sittings at the eleventh hour, causing untold disruptions to investigations.
Others had the penchant to take extraordinarily long to respond to investigators’ enquiries, submitted responses that were scant on detail and were worryingly poor at record-keeping. The latter problem was more prevalent at municipalities that were under administration and those that had been amalgamated.
“It is not enough for those exercising public power to simply explain and justify their actions as a way of accounting. Accountability includes redress or taking corrective action to address the specific wrongdoing,” Adv. Gcaleka said.
“This entails restorative justice for victims of administrative injustices by the state, clawing back public resources acquired through unlawful means and fixing the system to avoid a recurrence of the improper conduct or maladministration.”
The Office of the Public Protector is currently investigating 173 service delivery and conduct failure complaints against ten municipalities across the province. The bulk of the complaints (86) are against Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. The country’s administrative capital is followed by Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipalities with 36 and 30 investigations, respectively.
Of the 86 investigations against Tshwane Metro, 65 have to do with alleged irregular billing for water and electricity services, 11 relate to undue delays in the delivery of basic services, three involve alleged corruption (sale of RDP houses or stands) while one concerns alleged tender irregularities.
Sixteen of the investigations involving Ekurhuleni Metro relate to alleged irregular billing for water and electricity services and 11 have to do with undue delays in the rendering of basic services. In respect of the Johannesburg Metro, 15 investigations involve water and electricity billing, five concern undue delays in the delivery of services, four have to do with alleged corruption and two relate to alleged tender irregularities.
The prevalence of water and electricity billing complaints against the Tshwane Metro has prompted a systemic investigation, through which the Public Protector seeks to plug whichever gaps in the system give rise to the problems that have led to an influx in complaints. This investigation is at an advanced stage.
Over the last four years, the Public Protector has issued 17 formal investigation reports against Gauteng municipalities. The reports covered issues such as improper awarding of contracts, irregular appointments, illegal occupations of RDP houses due to improper management of allocations processes, financial mismanagement of municipal funds, delays in issuing title deeds and unlawful evictions. Implementation of remedial action remains outstanding in nine of the 17 reports.