Proposed bill aims to rein in municipal managers

Proposed bill aims to rein in municipal managers
Johannesburg - Workers in municipalities will, in the near future, be dismissed for flouting the Municipal Finance Management Act. This is if Parliament passes legislation proposed by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) that will mean such workers are not employable for at least five years.

This emerged after Cogta Minister Zweli Mkhize published a notice last week of his intention to introduce an amendment bill in Parliament.

“The amendment bill seeks to amend the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, to build an efficient, effective and transparent local public administration that conforms to constitutional principles, and to strengthen the capacity of municipalities to perform their functions by setting uniform standards” reads the notice published in the Government Gazette.

A memorandum on the bill said its main objective was to give the minister adequate regulatory powers in respect of municipal managers, and to make managers accountable to municipal managers.

“The bill also addresses key elements of the local government turnaround strategy.”

The bill is a sequel to a bill that did not pass constitutional muster in the Constitutional Court in March, 2017, after the Gauteng High Court found it was not classified as affecting provinces. Parliament was given 24 months (until March 9, 2019) to fix the issues.

The bill also provides that a staff member of any municipality who has been dismissed for misconduct may only be re-employed in any municipality after a prescribed period.

The bill also empowers the minister to determine a minimum level of skills, expertise, competencies and qualifications for municipal managers appointed from the date on which the law takes effect.

“The idea is that an appointment should be null and void if the person appointed does not have the prescribed qualifications. It is also proposed to insert an appointment procedure in this section to ensure that a vacant post of municipal manager is advertised nationally, to attract as wide a pool of candidates as possible.”

The minister may exempt a municipal council from these strict requirements if the council is unable to attract a suitable candidate, which may happen, especially in rural areas.

The bill provides for the municipal council to report to the MEC for local government and the minister on the appointment process.

Municipal managers and directors will be barred from holding political office, whether in a permanent, temporary or acting capacity.

The South African Local Government Association did not immediately comment when approached.