28 January 2014
New regulations aimed at facilitating the implementation of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act will help to fix non-functioning municipalities and rid them of corrupt employees, says Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Lechesa Tsenoli.
“This is one area of the law where we are intervening practically,” Tsenoli told SAnews in an interview on Friday. “It is a crucial way to guide weaker municipalities that are not able to properly guide themselves in human resources, finances and so on.”
Gone are the days when an official would “run away” from a corruption case by resigning from a municipality, only to join another one a few months down the line, Tsenoli said.
The regulations stipulate that municipalities have to keep records of fired employees or those who resign before their disciplinary hearing is completed.
Those found guilty of financial misconduct in municipalities will be prevented from taking up local government jobs for 10 years, while those found guilty of other offences will be banned from working for local government for between two and five years.
Gazetted on 17 January, the regulations also set out minimum levels of skills, expertise and qualifications for senior managers, and provide for the setting of salary limits by the minister.
“People are going to be properly screened, and we want to make sure that they do not carry any baggage of misconduct from elsewhere [and that] they do not have convictions for fraud and so on. We are going to be tough. We call it the ‘eye of the needle’,” Tsenoli said.
“We also want to make sure that the salaries they earn do not outstrip that of the President, because it has been established that some municipal managers are earning way too much. Without entering into the bargaining arena, a cap will be put on the remuneration in line with the economic situation of the country.”
Asked how the regulations would affect the authority of municipalities to act independently, Tsenoli said that local authorities would retain their autonomy.
“It is a useful guiding template, but still means that they have the authority and will act as a council without regional and provincial government intervention. So it is their responsibility to do that. What we have done is to provide them with help and guide them.”
The new law and regulations were not passed without opposition from the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the South African Local Government Association (Salga).
Samwu said it was concerned about the Act prohibiting senior political office bearers from becoming senior managers in local government, while Salga said it was unhappy with a range of issues, including the capping of salaries by national government.
Tsenoli defended the regulations, saying they were the “best thing to have happened in municipalities since 1995”.
“This is part of the Municipal Management Act. We work with Treasury in all of these things. We have also announced an amnesty of sorts, allowing for people who currently are in (senior) positions in municipalities to ensure they upgrade themselves because if they don’t have specific competencies and qualifications, they will not be allowed to occupy those positions,” he said. he regulations