The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) is concerned by reports that municipalities are failing to spend allocated infrastructure grants.

Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni, confirmed this week that 44 municipalities had their municipal infrastructure grants reallocated to other municipalities. Nelson Mandela Metro forfeited R29.4m from the grant on public networks while Ekurhuleni lost R90m, City of Johannesburg R46m and eThekwini R58m. Newcastle in KwaZulu Natal forfeited R56m and Madibeng in North West lost R60m.

“Over and above budgeted projects and maintenance, municipalities are able to apply for conditional grants to develop, maintain and refurbish infrastructure. These municipal infrastructure grants are meant to be tied to a specific project or purpose however, we routinely see this money used for other expenses or in some cases not spend at all. South African municipalities are collectively owed R139bn from residents alone. It seems inconceivable that income-strapped municipalities are not adequately utilising their grant allocations,” stated IMATU Deputy President, Keith Swanepoel.

Many of South Africa’s rural municipalities are reliant on these grants to upgrade and maintain water and sanitation services, roads, public buildings and a number of other services.

“The concerns of aging infrastructure and inadequate maintenance were highlighted and discussed at IMATU’s Mid-Term Conference in October 2018. We have developed reporting mechanisms to assist our members to record breakdowns in service delivery. If members are unable to perform aspects of their work due to resource shortages, incorrect equipment or unsafe working conditions we request that they log these incidents with their Regional Office. If we cannot resolve the problem at a municipal level, the union will escalate the concern to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Many of the problems reported stem from poor planning, unmaintained infrastructure and underfunded budgets,” explained Swanepoel.

In the latest report on local government audit outcomes, the Auditor General emphasised the need for municipal leaders to be accountable for their actions, decisions and policies.  IMATU strongly believes that political leaders and municipal officials alike, must be able to demonstrate how their decisions align with constitutional mandates and their municipality’s integrated development plan. Leaders must be answerable to the communities they serve, especially when these communities are not receiving basic services with little hope for future development.IMATU is committed to social transformation through a sustainable local government, this commitment must however be matched with equal assurances that the leaders of our country, provinces and municipalities will act in the public interest, take accountability for their actions and respect the rule of law.