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Mahlangu: Conference on transformation of local government (06/02/2003)

6th February 2003


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Date: 06/02/2003
Source: Mpumalanga Provincial Government
Title: Mahlangu: Conference on transformation of local government


Master of ceremonies
Provincial and Local Government Minister Mufamadi
And Staff from your Ministry and Department
Honourable MECs
Members of your staff
Your worships district and municipal mayors and officials from local government
Chief Executive Officers
Officials and members of the Local Government Association of Mpumalanga
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

We gather here today to assess how far we have gone in executing the mandate given to us by the people of Mpumalanga almost three years ago.

As we do so let us remind ourselves that as servants of the people we assured our people that we would work day and night in order to create a better life for all, while pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

We also pledged to maintain and promote a high standard of professional ethics; ensure efficient, economic and effective use of resources.

Let us remember that we said we would deliver services impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.

We told our people that we would respond to their needs and encourage public participation in policy matters.

We agreed that in order to do that the three spheres of government must work in partnership to tackle these challenges in an integrated way.

Let us use modern analysis tool to assess and review how far we have gone in implementing decisions that we, as servants of the people, took a few years ago.

The issues we are going to discuss today deserve clear analysis, separated from emotion.

Remember that as government we have a vast array of public policy tools in our toolbox.

There's always a temptation to reach for the easiest tool to provide short-term solutions to urgent problems.

Too often, these solutions create much bigger problems down the road.

Let us refrain from doing that.

You will remember that at its extended lekgotla held on 14 December 2001, the President's Co-ordinating Council took far-reaching resolutions, which we are going to put under the microscope today.

On that day we committed ourselves to the implementation of five key strategic objectives we identified as crucial in the transformation of local government.

We pledged to help in the building of a strong local government sphere and assist in enhancing its status within a stable co-operative governance framework.

We did that because we recognised that Municipalities are a critical developmental institution in the country in changing the lives of people.

In setting the above task, we accepted that significant progress had already been made in affirming the local sphere of government, and building wall to wall local government.

In particular we noted then the progress made in enhancing the status of local government within a framework of government-wide planning, and the aim to make municipal INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT PLANS the basis for greater alignment in policy, planning and budgeting across the three spheres.

On December 2001 we all agreed that further work needed to be done to build the local sphere and enhance its status.

Programme Director, we also resolved to build stable institutional and administrative systems in local government.

Here too, we noted that progress had been made in rebuilding institutional and administrative systems in local government.

We were particularly impressed then with the support programmes in place to support municipalities to stabilise their institutions and administration.

Of importance was that we pledged to regularly conduct surveys to assess the overall implementation and workability of the new system of local government through regular reports.

Programme Director, we also took it upon ourselves to work towards the deepening local democracy and accountability.

We also resolved to improve and accelerate service delivery and economic development.

We would do this through the establishment of a dedicated support team involving national and provincial government.

This team would to assist municipalities in the implementation of, among others, government policy on free basic services with specific focus on weaker municipalities in rural areas.

The team would also identify the problems and propose remedial measures with regard to the implementation of government policy.

We said we would urgently develop and implement emergency measures to support and fast track the process of finalising INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT PLANS and systems to monitor performance of municipalities on service delivery.

And to affirm the principle of an intergovernmental partnership in the Urban Renewal Programme and Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme, and to ensure that lessons learnt from this collaboration are applied to the entire sphere of local government.

We also promised to initiate and establish a programme aimed at promoting electronic-government that will improve and speed-up service delivery within local government.

Finally, we pledged to build financially viable local government.

We took this resolution because we realised that financial instability was one of the key motivations for restructuring the system of local government.

We were all agreed that key improvements in local government finance were required.

Despite progress, the local government finance system was still not structured to ensure viability of all municipalities.

And this we could ill afford.

Programme Director, some of the thought provoking documents prepared for this review raised a number of issues.

I believe these matters will help focus the discussion on key issues and questions.

* Do people in the rural areas know enough about our five strategic objectives and how we hope to achieve these?

* Are municipalities informed timeously of intentions to develop and amend legislation and policies relating to local government?

* Should the management of portable water supply systems, domestic waste and sewage disposal system be separated?

* Should the authority and provider functions between district and local municipalities be separated?

Surely if a municipality has the capacity to provide, it surely has capacity to perform the authority function. That's what one of the documents argues.

It also argues that local municipalities should perform the provision and authority of water and sanitation because:

* They are closest to the communities and have ward presentations
* Water is a commercial service for locals
* Sanitation is linked to water provision
* Capacity to provide warrants the authority capacity
* Splitting of authority / provider functions between districts and locals municipalities may cause conflicts between districts and local municipalities
* Electricity Reticulation is a commercial service of municipalities

These are good points. They reflect a clear understanding of the role of all spheres of government in accelerating service delivery.

Good public policy begins when you ask the right question. Effective decision-making requires a clear definition of the problem.

Remember, we are succeeding in pushing back the frontiers of poverty and under-development because our basic policy is sounds.

Our people understand and support our programmes because they know that these programmes will ensure that they move further away from poverty and suffering towards a better quality of life.

They also support us because, as servants of the people, we are accessible.

There can be no such thing as a good government, at whatever level, that is cut off from the people.

Contact with the masses of the people must be an integral part of the regular work of all our municipalities, district councils and rural structures.

In the Imbizos and in our Community Outreach Programmes, our people told us that our basic policies are sound.

But they also told us that the mechanisms of delivery and the visible impact on poverty on the lives of women, youth; rural communities and people living on farms must be accelerated.

They said we should do this through better integration and coordination of infrastructure delivery.

We are doing that, but the people want us to improve on it.

Programme Director, there are many advantages in integrated infrastructure planning.

An integrated infrastructure programme should maximise economic development benefits and improve prospects for long-term economic growth.

Indeed such a programme should ensure the proper balance between economic and social infrastructure.

Our people want us to ensure the alignment of budget cycles of municipalities to be in concert with the multi-year budgeting cycle of other spheres of government, in order to ensure the effective planning and financing of INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT PLANS.

That's what they want.

They also want us to create a consolidated information management system to monitor quality services and products and formulate appropriate strategies.

Surely there is merit in what they are calling for because we are all agreed that Infrastructure investment must be built upon the principle of co-operative governance and joint planning.

We must establish a framework for monitoring and evaluation, identifying role-players and their responsibilities on the basis of clearly identifiable key performance areas and project deliverables in relation to cost, quality and socio economic outcomes.

Sound and accessible infrastructure provides much needed access for people, particularly the poor and those in isolated areas or regions, to affordable and good quality services, facilities and opportunities.

It can also facilitate economic growth and diversification, and create favourable conditions for improved production and increased consumption.

I believe that some of the key components of vision for infrastructure in our province include the following objectives:

To expand infrastructure development to all areas of our country and ensure equitable access to good infrastructure through a clear infrastructure development programme.

We should eliminate inequalities and disparities in forward planning for infrastructure to ensure that resources are equitably used to meet the most critical needs first.

Indeed we must develop common standards for infrastructure development and maintenance, which are affordable both to government and our people.

Provide basic affordable household infrastructure to every household at standards defined appropriately for each type of human settlement.

The focused outcomes of infrastructure development must be job creation, poverty eradication and income generation through an Expanded Public Works Programme approach, using labour intensive methods of production and development.

We have been able to dent poverty through our Public Works Programmes.

But a lot still needs to be done.

We must build democratic participation in development, the social cohesion of communities and removing obstacles to effective participation of women, youth and other targeted groups.

As leaders in the different spheres of government we need to together ensure that we integrated human settlement development through an enhanced strategy for land acquisition.

This we must do through disposal of state land and expropriation, and the provision of social facilities.

We also have to provide infrastructure, in particular basic social and municipal services, through labour intensive methods to maximise job creation and skills development.

That is why it is important to develop an Integrated Infrastructure Plan, which incorporates and consolidates development plans across all spheres of government, especially the Integrated Development Plans of local government, the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme and the Urban Renewal Programme.

Such a plan must proceed from a critical assessment of all current programmes with a view to strengthening procedures, overcoming institutional and operational difficulties in regard to the coordination of government and state owned enterprises.

All of us must develop the capacity of people, organisations and systems to ensure that the effective management of the delivery and maintenance of infrastructure is achieved, with special focus on the planning and operational capacity of District Municipalities.

We must continue to ensure that there is effective integration and coordination across departments and amongst all spheres of government.

I believe we must, as a mater of urgency, establish an inter-departmental inter-municipality committee on infrastructure development to ensure the appropriate prioritisation of budgets.

Finally, let me once again emphasise that we should involve the people in all we do.

The participation of civil society groups in public affairs must be enhanced if not institutionalised.

We are confident that this year, acting together, we will achieve new victories in the continuing struggle for the reconstruction and development of our province.

Ladies and gentlemen, the PCC review must provoke a lively policy discussion. It's clear to me that the way forward must be to answer questions as frankly and as honestly as we possibly can.

The rural poor, the battered women and child; the unemployed youth - in fact all the people of this province - all have legitimate concerns. We must listen. We must find innovative solutions. We must find ways to further improve and accelerate service delivery in a co-ordinated manner.

What Mpumalanga needs is better planning and co-ordination? This is perhaps the most critical issue we must address. Let's not fool the people and ourselves.

Let's ensure a few years from now when we look back at this meeting, we will all agree that it was worth our while.

I thank you.

Issued by Office of the Premier, Mpumalanga
6 February 2003


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