Less than half of the accounting officers and CFOs employed by the country’s 257 municipalities meet the minimum competency levels required for them to perform their functions. Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene indicated on Tuesday that steps are being taken to ensure that municipal officials acquire the requisite skills. Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize has also highlighted the dire lack of technical engineering skills. A lack of skills at municipal level means that service delivery is compromised. The paucity of financial management skills is apparent in the number of qualified audits for local government compiled by the auditor-general. In a reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Kevin Mileham, Nene said that only 94 of the 193 accounting officers met the minimum competency level and 79 of the 218 CFOs did so. Not all the municipalities had these officials because the posts were vacant. Even large cities did not have fully competent officials, information provided by the minister showed. Neither the one accounting officer nor the 17 CFOs in Johannesburg met the minimum competency level. The same was true for Tshwane.
“Not all municipal managers and CFOs in municipalities are compliant with the regulations, which is subject to ongoing discussion, monitoring and reporting between national government, provinces and municipalities,” Nene said. He added that there were high vacancy rates and high levels of staff turnover, with municipalities needing to expedite appointment processes. Nene said some smaller municipalities were being assisted with donor funds. The financial management grant was also used to assist.
“After extensive consultation processes the minister of finance will promulgate an amendment to, amongst others, regulations 15 and 18 of the municipal minimum competency regulations to allow all officials 18 months from the date of appointment to obtain the relevant competency levels. “It will be mandatory for all municipal councils to make the latter a condition of employment in the employment contracts of affected officials. These amendments will be promulgated shortly,” Nene said.
Many municipalities are in disarray, with Mkhize saying recently that 87 were distressed and dysfunctional while only 7% were functioning well. A shortage of skills in critical sectors such as water engineering hampered the functioning of municipalities, the minister said. Only 55 out of 257 municipalities had engineers leading their technical divisions, he said.
We are thus launching the MMC program training across the country to assist municipalities to achieve the necessary competency levels.