Another Free State municipality under administration

───   TSHEHLA KOTELI 16:34 Fri, 20 May 2022

Another Free State municipality under administration | News Article

The Frankfort-headquartered Mafube local municipality has been placed under administration by the Free State Executive Council (ExCo).

The decision to place the municipality under government intervention comes on the heels of a judgement delivered by the Free State Division of the High Court that instructed a mandatory Provincial Intervention should be instituted. 

ExCo’s decision came days before the provincial premier, Sisi Ntombela’s first presidential imbizo in Frankfort. According to a report compiled by the provincial department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the municipality still owes Eskom, SARS, pension funds and Messrs Rural Maintenance money.

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The report details that the municipality has for a number of years encountered financial distress and it has persistently breached its obligations to provide basic services. 

It was in March 2017 when the ExCo decided to place the municipality under administration in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution; which is instituted when a municipality fails to fulfil an executive obligation.

Some of the service delivery challenges that influenced the decision included:

•Stalled capital projects as management encroached onto these grants and used R8 million for unintended purposes.

•The reliability of water supply at high-lying areas.

•The municipality had roads and storm-water backlogs that were standing at 224.54km and needed an estimated capital outlay of R2.475 billion.

•Inadequate municipal fleet that encumbers the municipality to provide prompt and reliable municipal services such as refuse removal and maintenance of the bulk water, sanitation and roads and storm-water infrastructure.

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Later on another decision was taken by the ExCo on December 2020 to revoke section 139 (1)(b) at the municipality with effect from the 30 March 2021. The decision was influenced by the achievements the municipality achieved with support from COGTA:

•The provision of waste removal services had been restored in all the towns as the municipality purchased two compactor trucks.

•Ensured that outstanding two set of Annual Financial Statements for the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 financial years were submitted simultaneously to the Auditor-General for auditing. The outcome for both were qualified audit opinion.

•Ensured that the municipal manager is appointed and he assumed duties on the 4 May 2021.

•Paid back R8 million of capital grants encroached with March 2020 Equitable Share.

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However, on 4 May 2021, the Mafube Business Forum and Afri-Forum NPC lodged an application against the municipality, the Municipal Manager, Council, EXCO Representative/Administrator, the Premier, EXCO of Free State, three MECs, four Ministers, the Fezile Dabi District, the NCOP and the President - seeking that Intervention in terms of section 139(7) of the Constitution be instituted in the Municipality.

Mafube business forum and Afri-Forum wanted to be permitted to assist and oversee in the Municipality’s administration on a temporary basis.

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The judgement delivered on 28 April 2022 ordered a mandatory Provincial Intervention in terms of section 139 (4) and five of the Constitution should be instituted. The ExCo’s decision to invoke section 139 (5)(a) & (c) at Mafube on 11 May 2022 was because they believe the municipality is a going concern, the sustainability thereof still poses a challenge due to the financial distress, rising services arrears debt.

Also ageing infrastructure challenges, including dependency on conditional grants and equitable share.

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