Closing Address by Deputy Minister, Andries Nel at the City Support Programme’s City Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and Technology Workshop (InTAcT)



20 July 2018,


Programme Director,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good Afternoon,

I am greatly pleased to be here today.

We meet during one of my favourite parts of the year, when our country has the opportunity to celebrate one of our greatest icons, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Just this morning I returned from New York, where I joined the staff of the United Nations in honouring Madiba by assisting at the Harlem Grown community vegetable garden.

The UN Postal Administration has issued a Nelson Mandela commemorative stamp.

I was also honoured to join our former Deputy President and now Executive Director of UN Women, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, in opening an exhibition honouring Madiba.

So while some at home are questioning Madiba’s legacy, let me assure you that the rest of the world have great love for our global statesman.

Not only did he lead South Africa away from the brink of a civil war, but his Presidency laid the foundation for the solid democracy we have today.

Who would have thought that some of his greatest contributions would come well after he left the high office.

From challenging the stigma of HIV/AIDS to urging the world to make the lives of children better, Nelson Mandela reminded us of our common humanity.

To quote the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, when delivering the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture this week:

“But through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and, perhaps most of all, through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to signify something larger. He came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people all around the world, their hopes for a better life, the possibility of a moral transformation in the conduct of human affairs.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Of course, having the opportunity to honour Madiba in New York was an unexpected and delightful outcome of the main purpose of my visit.

On Monday I joined the South African ministerial delegation attending the United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The Forum convened under the theme, “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.”

With that in mind, the first ever Local and Regional Governments’ Forum was held, with over 100 mayors attending the event.

With rapid urbanisation the order of the day, there is a greater realisation that the struggle for sustainability will be won or lost in cities.

However, the Forum noted that local and national authorities are making uneven progress towards achieving SDG 11.

Among the recommendations emanating from the Forum was the call to strengthen coordination and partnerships between the local and regional levels and national level to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11, to make cities and human settlements safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by 2030.

Cities are spaces where all SDGs to be integrated to provide holistic solutions to the challenges of poverty, homelessness and exclusion, amongst others.

Which brings us to our gathering here today, and why your work is so important.

The Auditor-General’s report on South African municipalities for 2016-17 noted a deterioration in their audit results, with a regression in audit outcome and an increase in irregular expenditure. This no doubt impacts on service delivery.

As A-G Kimi Makwetu stated, the Office’s consistent and insistent advice to those charged with governance and oversight has been largely ignored in the last few years.

Of particular concern was a leadership deficiency in addressing the lack of accountability by implementing consequences against those who flouted basic processes that hampered effective municipal governance.

The AG also reported weaknesses in internal control and the risks that needed attention in local government.

In other words, the convening of this workshop is long overdue.

The CSP City Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and Technology (InTAcT) project aims to develop a framework and tools for assessing practices of social accountability, integrity and transparency in South Africa’s cities.

As indicated at the outset, the four critical areas of decision-making where unaccountable, unethical and hidden actions typically manifest are the Prioritisation of projects; the hiring of Personnel and related actions; Procurement, which needs no further explanation; and permissions and penalties, which refer to a city’s regulatory processes.

As many of you know I am a champion of the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) and sound governance is central to achieving the spatial transformation the IUDF propagates.

In addition to this Lever 8 of the IUDF also highlights the importance of Effective Urban Governance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The three practice notes that have emanated from the self-assessment exercises in the three metros are:

  • Integrity and social accountability in prioritisation and performance: Navigating the political-administrative interface
  • Integrity and social accountability in local government land development permissions
  • Decision-making effectiveness in infrastructure procurement processes

Needless to say, many would argue that the dysfunctionality at many of our municipalities is directly related to the breakdown in the political-administrative interface.

Executive councillors and senior managers each need to recognise the different dynamics of politics and administration and to work together to bridge these realities. Such engagement needs to acknowledge that officials had a legitimate interest and duty to advise regarding policy issues and that politicians similarly had a legitimate interest in administrative performance and a duty to provide advice and give feedback.

The members of the executive have the political responsibility to oversee the implementation of government policies and programmes in the municipality. They are political heads of government and are accountable to the voters as well as to the council for the work done by government. They present plans and budgets to the council for approval, and report to council on their performance as the executive.

The executive needs to have a close relationship with municipal managers and heads of departments. The executive must set policy and give overall strategic direction to the work of the municipality or a department. They have to account for the performance of the municipality or department, and will need to be briefed on implementation plans, progress and problems.

It is important to understand the distinction between this political role and the managerial role of the municipal manager and heads of departments, who are legally accountable for matters such as spending, procurement, contracts and staff employment, amongst others. Politicians should not micro-manage the work of units within the department or get involved in matters such as awarding of contracts or employing staff. At the same time politicians can legitimately set procurement or employment targets as well as BEE and affirmative action policies and monitor progress with implementation and achievement.

The municipality’s administration is headed by the municipal manager who has to develop an economically efficient and accountable administration that is equipped to carry out the implementation of the municipality’s IDP and other decisions of the council. The municipal manager, heads of departments and other employees of the municipality form the administrative organisation that is responsible for implementing decisions made by the council.

It is important for the Mayor and councillors to develop a good working relationship with the municipal manager and key officials based on mutual respect and trust. The political leadership needs to set clear policy objectives within which officials are expected to operate. At the same time it is important to listen and take advice from officials about procedures for getting things done correctly, and about the practical implications of policy proposals.  A constructive working relationship will ensure that council is more effective in getting services delivered and meeting its objectives.

Managers who successfully navigated the interface tend to be very sensitive to the policy objectives of their political principals and are able to inspire confidence in politicians that they would deliver on the policy objectives without comprising the integrity of decision-making processes. Officials are often too passive and reactive in their engagement with politicians and need to build the relationship in a proactive and confident fashion. Various practice suggestions have been made to help build trust and understanding between political leaders and senior officials included the importance of frequent informal discussions between political and administrative leadership, the holding of regular strategic retreats to address strategic policy and administrative issues and joint training activities to help build common understanding regarding governance and interface management challenges.

It is important to build the capacity of political and administrative leaders to manage the political-administrative interface. This needs intensified engagement regarding the interface “rules of the game”. At city, SALGA  and party political level we need to facilitate great discussion between political leadership and top management regarding prioritisation and performance decision-making, given that these are the two areas where political leadership have strong mandates. Political and administrative leadership each have an obligation to educate each other about their respective realms to facilitate co-operation in meeting their respective commitments. Political leadership needs to understand how administration works but senior managers conversely have to understand the dynamics of politics.

Measures should also be taken to strengthen the “independence” of political leadership of cities in relation to party political structures. The pressure on political parties to raise funding for their functioning and electoral campaigns makes political leadership vulnerable to the influence of the political party and private sector interests in regard to prioritisation, procurement and permissions decisions. The draft bill on party political funding will help to address this by making public funds available to parties for these purposes, and opening up transparency in party funders. City leadership also need to be more proactive in engaging with provincial and regional party political leadership regarding the long-term political benefits of competent high integrity administration which does not compromise on the integrity of decision-making processes but recognises that these processes need to deliver on the parties’ policy intent.

Measures should also be taken to strengthen the protections against improper political influence. Municipal Managers and Executive Directors need to ensure that politicians do not cross the “line” of interfering in administrative processes outside of their mandate. This is a key responsibility and it is critical for preserving administrative integrity and prerogatives. It is very difficult and costly for officials below them in the administrative hierarchy to resist unlawful or unethical instructions coming from higher levels. At the same time, these top officials are particularly vulnerable to political pressure because they were appointed by councillors, their performance bonuses are subject to political approval and any re-appointment requires political support. Consideration should be given to policy and legal adjustments to protect officials against illegitimate pressure. Some suggestions included strengthening tenure protections of senior management (including possibly reviewing the current term limits for s57 employees and increasing the minimum grounds required to dismiss top management).

Cities should also review the demarcation of the respective roles of Executive Mayors and MMCs given ambiguities in current practice. Some cities operate with Mayoral Committees functioning as de facto cabinets where individual MMCs see themselves as holding executive authority in regard to their function and the relevant department head/s. This situation is contrary to legislative intent, potentially erodes accountability lines and undermines the position of the Municipal Manager as head of the administration. Consideration should be given to commissioning research about how MMCs operate across the cities in terms of their engagement with the administration with a view to identifying good practice and highlighting negative approaches. Cities also need to review their delegations to ensure that the allocation of roles and responsibilities to MMCs, particularly, is based on a sustainable legal foundation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was Tata Madiba who said:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Of course, not everyone may feel that way.

Which is why our efforts at this workshop will go a long way in ensuring that we give clear direction to all role-players in the local government space so that they are compelled to act with integrity.

The local government space has unfortunately become a site for unfettered looting, despite the various control measure in place.

We believe this workshop can address the challenges in the four critical areas more effectively, by highlighting the nefarious practices prevalent in them and in determining the steps to overcome these negative behaviours.

I thank you for your time and look forward to the outcomes of this workshop.