Skills not enough to save councils, we need morals too
The Times Editorial: The cabinet yesterday expressed "grave concern" about the poor quality of municipal audits as reported by the auditor-general.
Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi had been told to ensure that qualified chief financial officers are employed at municipalities.
It will probably prove to be a tall order.
One of the key issues auditor-general Terence Nombembe addresses in his local government audit report for 2010/2011 is competence and capacity at municipal level.
Nombembe highlights the dependence on consultants, who are brought in to do the work of government officials already in the employ of the state.
Of the 343 municipalities audited, 68% used consultants, at a cost of more than R295-million.
In his foreword to the report, Nombembe writes: "Officials in key positions at more than 70% of the auditees do not have the minimum competencies and skills required to perform their jobs."
Nombembe stresses that the skills gap is most pronounced when it comes to financial discipline. Only 5% of municipalities produced clean audits.
Baloyi will first have to find people with the necessary skills, both in implementing proper governance and in accounting practices.
The government's employment equity policies currently rule out many skilled financial professionals.
It has also been clear for some time that maladministration, incompetence and corruption are most prevalent at municipal level.
Hiring officials with strong financial skills will not overcome this debilitating state of affairs. Instead, Baloyi will have to clean up municipalities, and hold accountable - with real consequences - those who fail at their jobs. Until the cabinet demands this of the minister, the best financial officers in the country will not be able to effect the change needed.