Municipalities should be opened up to public oversight immediately

OUTA calls for civil oversight and real-time transparency to avoid more municipal tax abuse.

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28/04/2020 12:47:52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Municipalities should be opened up to public oversight immediately

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) commends the proactive approach of and statement by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu on safeguarding the Covid-19 relief funds allocated to municipalities by applying his powers to oversee these funds. However, OUTA  is still concerned that this money will not benefit the poorest of the poor but rather sustain broken municipalities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "Citizens have very little confidence that their municipalities will spend the R20bn relief fund for its intended purposes," said Matt Johnston, Parliamentary Engagement Manager at OUTA. "We’re facing a systemic crisis in our municipal administration, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Covid-19 funds are abused to make up for mismanagement or to serve selfish purposes."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It is widely known that most municipalities countrywide and even the big metros have been mismanaged over time, and many are close to bankruptcy, stumbling from week to week. “Some are unable to deliver the necessary services and pay salaries each month under ordinary circumstances.” This cannot be part of the new normal we are embracing as a nation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “We are calling for those municipalities that are unable to sustain themselves financially and require additional funding to be subjected to permanent public accountability mechanisms.” A good example of such mechanisms is the Public Procurement Bill, which OUTA will contribute to in Parliament soon. Beyond National Treasury, energies in civil society, the private sector and academia must also be harnessed to bring about a stakeholder society underpinned by accountability.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The state would do well to implement recommendations from the AG’s office. The past decade has seen the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) at provincial and national level, as well as Provincial Treasuries, largely missing in action when it comes to bringing municipal managers and their CFO’s in line. "Virtually no consequences have been felt by accounting and executive authorities as taxpayers’ money is plundered and wasted.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      To enable existing oversight bodies to do their work, and to empower civil society with similar powers to hold municipalities accountable, OUTA supports the Auditor General’s suggestion that municipal spending should be made immediately transparent. This should not only apply to Covid-19 relief funds, but to taxpayers money being spent in general as well - especially in cases where municipalities rely on the fiscus to pay for operational costs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Picture: Shutterstock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.