In recent weeks the Auditor-General (“AG”) has been speaking about the state of local government as they have commented about the serious lack of good governance and mismanagement at municipalities. They have expressed concern that at present, in many instances, the progressive and sustainable improvements required to prevent accountability failures and to deal with them, do not exist.
In their reporting on the 2019-20 local government audit outcomes they stress the need for ethical and accountable leadership to drive the changes to ensure that governance fundamentals are strengthened. The AG says that they believe that the responsibility to turn around local government is purely in the hands of its leadership to drive the change through “ethical and accountable leadership”. This would require the incoming leadership after the forthcoming local government elections to focus on building a strong administration that is fit for purpose, qualified and professional to run municipalities. The very same leadership should provide the space for the administration to do their work, effectively oversee and hold them accountable for the decisions they make.
These thoughts above, expressed by the AG are applicable to all municipalities in the country. We have foreshadowed this thought process in George in the work that has been undertaken since the beginning of 2021 through the appointment of Dr Gratz as acting municipal manager and three new directors, with a fourth commencing in August and interviews being held for the fifth intended appointment. This new team has already started to effect the improvements that require to be made to improve service delivery.
By way of example, we experienced difficulties with refuse collection some months ago. The underlying issues within this service needed to be analysed and resolved to ensure a smooth operation once more. Similarly, changes that have been made to improve turnaround times to obtain approval of building plans and town planning applications are already starting to take effect. Over the coming months we can expect the new leadership at electro-tech, finance and at civil and engineering services to contribute to improvements in those areas.
The turnaround process that George is undertaking is comprehensive as we need to ensure that our administration is geared to upgrade operating procedures and workflows to cater for the continued economic growth taking place and expected in the coming years.
Change management is however complex both in terms of the changes that need to be implemented and in dealing with the human factor. Changes take time to be implemented. It is therefore critical that the processes be put in place so that we can deliver a high standard of services while simultaneously undertaking improvements to infrastructure that will prove attractive for investment that will lead to increased employment and well-being for all citizens.