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DCoG DG Madonsela speech at the Intergovernmental workshop

Speaking at the recent district Intergovernmental (IGR) forum workshop in Boksburg cooperative governance director-general, Vusi Madonsela, urged officials to find creative ways to use IGR structures as opportunities to overcome capacity constraints.Madonsela said district IGR forums would benefit from consolidating their resources as this would allow districts to coordinate their service delivery efforts.

 The Department of Coperative Governance met provinces and municipalities to share the findings of the department's research study into the effectiveness and state of district IGR forums in the country.

The DG's talking notes starts here:

I would firstly like to warmly welcome you all to this national IGR Workshop, convened by the department. It is testament to your commitment and dedication to building our system of intergovernmental relations that some of you have travelled long distances to be here with us today. We thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with us – I fully anticipate robust debate and the advancement of our understanding of IGR as it is practised by each sphere of government.

 

I gather that most of you represent district governments, and that we are honoured to have municipal managers amongst us, together with many specialist district and provincial IGR practitioners.  We look forward to your specialist guidance today, as we debate how to improve the functionality of our district IGR forums.

 

I am reliably informed that a functionality assessment was conducted last year, undertaken by the department’s IGR team, together with a service provider. Further thanks are due to all those districts and provinces that cooperated with us during the assessment.  We recognise that this is the first such assessment, and we are on a learning curve as to how to better understand and manage our system. Therefore, closer relationships with you, henceforth, is going to be essential if we are to rise to the challenge of shaping our IGR system to fulfil its mandate of governing our cooperative governance obligations.

 

 I would now like to refer to some of the key recommendations of the NDP, which we need to take cognisance of, as we work together to forge a strengthened system of IGR.

 

The first key point relevant to IGR, raised in chapter 13, Building a capable and developmental state, is: ‘Improving relations between national, provincial and local government requires a proactive approach to resolving coordination problems’. In this respect the Plan went on to say that: ‘South Africa has to achieve constructive relations between local, provincial and national government. A lack of clarity about the division of responsibilities together with a reluctance to manage the system has created tension and instability across the three spheres of government. There is no consensus on how this is going to be done and there is a lack of leadership in finding appropriate solutions. These coordination problems are not unique to South Africa’.

 

Colleagues, you see our challenge!

So we need to ask ourselves, what roles can we play in our respective spheres of influence, to rise to the recommendations posited in chapter 13, under ‘What Needs to be Done?

 

So we can ask ourselves, what roles can IGR forums therefore play, in terms of: 1. Improve Interdepartmental Coordination:  here, we are asked to focus on a less hierarchical approach for integrated implementation, so that officials take the initiative through their routine, day-today interactions in and between departments and spheres  – (indeed this is the way government should do its business, IGR is the engine of government).

 

But we are also asked to strengthen formal coordination practices: high level coordination needs to take place on strategic issues:

  1. Cross cutting policy requires cross-cutting strategic agendas across our forums, from district level to the cluster system to the PCC.
  2. A criticism within the NDP is that forums are not being sufficiently strategic: our forums must not be mere ‘clearing houses’ for departmental submissions. We must be more focused and prioritise our issues. So a matter like progress reports on the LGTAS could be better managed through our Implementation Forums, whilst key point infrastructure programmes such as the CIPs and the 23 districts will definitely require the skills of a forum to strategically direct and cross-refer.
  3. This positioning is further reiterated in the section referring to the steps we may take to improve relations between the three spheres of government. A definitive plea is made to stop worrying about re-structuring of our district and provincial levels of government, and focus on how to make each sphere work more effectively. Indeed, IGR is a work in progress in our young democracy, and especially for the LG system, which is a mere 13 years old.
  4. Our challenge is to ensure each sphere delivers on its functional roles and responsibilities and delivers for all.  The Constitution sets out these powers, but ‘no written document can lay out every feature of our intergovernmental system’.   Therefore we need to focus on principles – including those key ones of subsidiarity and differentiation – as already provided for in our Constitution and in legislation, such as the Municipal Systems Act.

 

The role forums can play in these matters is two-fold:

  • Promote and debate the opportunities for regionalisation as a response to capacity constraints: (e.g. shared services, coordination of effort for service delivery, consolidation of resources).
  • Bring the discussion on clarity on the division of roles and functions, and the differentiated approach to the table; ensure your district area knowledge and expertise is utilised to inform policy development and assistance from the provincial / national sectors where needed.
  • Mediate disagreements between districts and locals (e.g. within a district regarding powers and functions, fiscal contestations, priorities for service delivery) and promote the district role as regional coordinator.
  • Support the provinces strategic role by escalating issues for consideration by MinMec, and reporting on this to DCOG.
  • If your district is within a metro area, negotiate with the metro in what strategic and practical ways, can the forums and the management: be proactive in supporting the necessary jurisdictions metro need to meet urban development challenges and priorities.

 

These are just some of the recommendations on the direction we must take. As we all know, no sphere can succeed on its own – we are practically and operationally interdependent; whilst policy and legislation is gradually developed to better provide the frameworks for the system, henceforth, (for example reviewing S84 of the Structures Act – amending the IGRFA to provide clearer operating frameworks for intergovernmental planning and powers and functions) we need to step forward now and optimise our skills and capacities for regional growth and development. So in conclusion, I say, we must indeed be proactive in managing our system.

 

I sincerely acknowledge the excellent work that you are all already doing, and urge you to take full advantage of this IGR workshop to contribute your experiences and help us to support each other effectively. 

 

On the note of being proactive, I will now hand over to the DDG for Governance and IGR, Mr Muthotho Sigidi, who is going to overview the day’s proceedings, and also remind us of the important role we play as custodians of the IGRFA.

I thank you for your attention. Mr Vusi Madonsela, DG: DCOG.