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CoGTA optimistic Free State municipal audits will improve

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Staff Reporter

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) MEC Thembeni Nxangisa says he is confident Free State municipalities will start registering improved audit outcomes because the provincial government has put in place a host of measures to assist them.

The MEC said this after Auditor-General (AG) Kimi Makwetu stated on Wednesday that municipal audit outcomes in the province had continued to regress for a third consecutive year.

The AG said almost half of the municipalities in the Free State had either not accounted for the manner in which they utilised their 2018-19 budgets or they had done it poorly.

In a written response to a raft of questions, Nxangisa told The Free Stater Thursday that although no municipality in the province has achieved a clean audit in the past three years, there have been marked improvements in some areas as the provincial CoGTA and treasury departments continue to work closely with the municipalities.

He said it was also important to note that some of the challenges are historical and may take long to address.

“It is important to pay attention not only to the final audit outcomes but to also have regard for the underlying root causes,” Nxangisa said.

“Even though the overall outcomes may not improve, it is important to also focus on improvement in the nature and number of audit paragraphs.

“CoGTA and Provincial Treasury have invested resources to turn around this position and in all likelihood we will see changes in the coming audit outcomes.”

The MEC admitted the audit outcomes painted a bleak picture on the state of municipal finances, but hastened to say the provincial treasury had identified financially distressed municipalities and worked with them to develop voluntary recovery plans which it continued to monitor.

On the issue of poor leadership and lack of accountability which have been blamed as key reasons for another set of dismal audit outcomes for Free State municipalities, Nxangisa said the province is now giving more support to municipal staff.

“One of the things highlighted by the AG’s report is the low level of assurance provided by the various leadership structures at the municipalities,” he said.

“The province has however supported municipal officials on attaining their minimum competency requirements.

“In addition the EXCO (Executive Council) has taken a decision that municipal officials must meet the requirements for their respective appointments.”

Asked why treasury has failed to hold anyone accountable over the past three years of poor results, Nxangisa said there are CoGTA disciplinary boards at municipalities that are expected to take requisite actions.

“In line with the Treasury’s MFMA (Municipal Finance Management Act) mandate of monitoring and supporting municipalities, the necessary reports are prepared and provided to the relevant governance structures such as the Provincial Public Accounts Committee which in turn is made up of all parties and has taken a strong stance to improve this position,” Nxangisa said.

Maluti-a-Phofung and Masilonyana local municipalities were listed in the AG’s report as having failed to submit financial statements for the second consecutive year, a situation the MEC said was as a result of a historic backlog which the two were trying to address.

“These municipalities had a historic backlog in terms of submitting financial statements,” he said.

“Necessitated by this and other legislative considerations, intervention was implemented at these municipalities.

“As a result there is a plan to assist these municipalities to catch up with the submission annual financial statements.”

On how the local authorities could build confidence and trust among the people given that some municipalities have failed to deliver services due to misuse of funds, Nxangisa said they will continue working with other statutory bodies and seek guidance on how to address the challenges.

“We certainly owe it to Chapter 9 institutions such as the AGSA to highlight gaps in terms of reliability and quality of reporting by the different government institutions and entities,” he said.

“Ours is to take up these issues and ensure that comprehensive and responsive audit action plans are developed and implemented by the municipalities.”

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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks

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PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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