We need skills. We get cadres.

Skills shortages continue to curse SA’s municipalities. Yet nothing is done to address the problem.

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The recent findings by Auditor-General Terence Nombembe on the state of South Africa’s municipalities are shocking yet unsurprising. According to Nombembe, only five per cent of municipalities received clean audits for 2010/2011. So much for ‘Operation Clean Audit’ which government launched in 2009. This initiative by the Department of Corporate Governance intends that by 2014, all 283 municipalities and departments of all nine provinces will achieve clean audits on their annual financial statements – a pipe dream if ever there was one.

It’s already 2012 and things are getting worse. According to Nombembe, there was no improvement in the 2010/2011 audits. Skills, or the lack of them, is still a major problem. In his report, the Auditor-General said that 70% of auditees lacked key competencies and skills. 70%! That means that seven out of the 10 people who run our day-to-day lives don’t understand what they are doing.

To experience this first-hand, try calling your municipality and reporting a problem. Chances are you’ll take half the morning to get through, and then another age arguing with someone who thinks that simply by answering the phone he or she is doing you an enormous favour.

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Many of these municipal types seem to have the same attitude towards Nombembe and the government. Otherwise why did some 50% of auditees not submit their annual ?nancial statements in time or obtain ?nancially quali?ed audits? And according to the Auditor-General, most of those who received ?nancially unquali?ed audits achieved this feat only after auditors had corrected their mistakes.

Appointment of inept cadres
The problem of skills shortages in municipalities has been brought up by everyone, even the masters themselves, yet nothing is done about it. Organising a few workshops at some fancy bush lodge is not going to address the problem. I agree with the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) that the political bosses must take the rap for this situation. We all know that cadre deployment is at the root of the problem; it is responsible for almost all the people who are liabilities in municipalities.

These deployed cadres spend most of their time planning who gets hired and which tender goes to whom than getting on with the job that they were hired to do. In 46% of the audited municipalities, contracts were awarded to employees, councillors, and other State officials.

Lack of accountability
Nombembe’s report also found that more than half of auditees attributed their poor audits to mayors and councillors who were not responsive and did not take the Auditor-General’s recommendations seriously. “When of?cials and political leaders are not held accountable for their actions, the perception could be created that such behaviour and its results are acceptable and tolerated. “This could make even those people who are giving their best under trying circumstances despondent,” said Nombembe.

Need I say more?