4 April 2012 – The team of senior managers in Mafikeng municipality earn almost R30-million a year, making it the second most expensive council in the country despite all evidence pointing towards poor service delivery and sub-standard performance in the North West district.
This amount is according to the municipality’s submission of budgeted salaries to National Treasury, recently reported in the City Press.
Mafikeng’s senior management team costs taxpayers R27 364 800 a year, putting it just behind Johannesburg, which has a salary tag of R34-million. R1-million of that R27 364 800 goes towards the salary of Mafikeng’s municipal manager Kgotso Rabanye.
Questions sent by Corruption Watch to Rabanye, on salaries of senior management at the local authority, remained unanswered at the time of publishing.
Top council officials are required by law to verify that all financial information is correct when submitted to Treasury.
According to the recent media report, management teams of municipalities across the country cost between R1.9-million (Mopani in Limpopo) and R34-million (Johannesburg).
Mafikeng local municipality’s annual report for 2010/11 states that it serves the needs of approximately 290 000 people as compared to Johannesburg’s almost 4-million, yet spends nearly the same amount of money on senior management’s salaries.
It is also a predominantly rural municipality, as explained in the annual report.
Research by Treasury indicates that municipal managers of mostly rural municipalities, such as Mafikeng, earn on average more than their counterparts in towns or cities.
“A possible explanation is that rural municipalities are having to pay a premium to attract senior staff,” the research report goes on to state.
“However, the poor financial performance of many rural municipalities suggests that this premium is not paying off,” Treasury states.
These salaries do not appear to be matched by adequate performance on the municipalities’ part, and it seems that what they earn is also kept firmly out of view of the residents.
Mafikeng resident Tolamo Kgoboke had never heard what senior municipal managers earned until the media report surfaced.
“It is very bad," he said. "There are services that are needed here. This place is very dirty and needs to be cleaned up.”
Service delivery backlogs
Mafikeng continues to face problems with providing even the most basic services, ranging from education to water and sanitation.
Inadequate facilities and the under-utilisation of existing schools mean that the school drop-out rate remains high, with a 2007 survey indicating that 17% of the population had no schooling and that only 4% of people had completed Grade 12. This was reported in Mafikeng’s 2010/11 financial report.
Backlogs in water and sanitation provision mean that 29.9% of the households in the municipality have a below-basic level of service and about 58% of the population have no access to basic sanitation, according to the report.
These statistics indicate that money allocated for service provision is not being directed to or spent where it should.
Kgoboke said: “If they were doing what they are paid for and if the money was spent on what it was allocated for, people wouldn’t mind, but that is not the case.”
In addition to selling sheep for a living, Kgoboke also helps community groups with social grant applications and faces countless problems when dealing with the municipality.
“They cannot assist communities in the ways that people need to be helped,” he said.
In the Treasury research report good governance is pinpointed as a critical factor in dealing with economic hardships and it is a primary part of a municipal manager’s job to allocate expenditure to where it is most needed.
Auditor-general Terence Nombembe has also raised concerns over the municipality’s performance, from as far back as 2008.
Three years after he first raised the alarm on Mafikeng’s governance issues, in June 2011 Nombembe called for urgent leadership action to be taken based on the 2009/10 audit report.
Mafikeng was one of 10 municipalities in the North West to have regressed in terms of performance, with problems involving irregular expenditure and non-compliance with regulations.
There was no improvement, and in January 2012 the National Council of Provinces’ select committee on finance announced that the same 10 municipalities had continued to regress in the 2010/11 financial year.
Mafikeng was in such dire straits after receiving a negative assessment from the auditor-general for the 2010/11 year that the committee advised the provincial government to intervene to strengthen the capacity of the municipality.
Issues with credibility of municipal budgets, use of allocated funds, inappropriately qualified staff and poor revenue-collection rates topped the list of problems facing the municipality.
Unsurprisingly, levels of public trust in government – particularly local government – remain low and the Treasury report noted a crisis in the credibility of local government.
The report also identified a tendency to blame municipal failings on a lack of individual or organisational capacity.
“However, when evaluating municipal performance failures, the reality is that many can be directly attributed to failures in local political leadership,” it states.
“The salaries of senior municipal managers always attract a considerable amount of public interest, especially given the general perception that municipal officials are overpaid in relation to their performance levels,” the Treasury report states.