Chapter 4 - Local Government
Each municipality has a council where decisions are made and municipal officials and staff carry out the work of the municipality.
Elected members have legislative powers to pass by-laws and approve policies for their area. By-Laws must not conflict with other National and Provincial legislation. They have to pass a budget for the municipality each year and they have to decide on development plans and service delivery for their municipal areas. This development plan is commonly known as the IDP. (Integrated Development Plan) Councillors meet in committees to develop proposals for council.
The functions of the Mayor and Councillors are set by the Municipal Structures Act.
The mayor is elected by the Municipal council to co-ordinate the work of the Municipality. The mayor is the political head of the Municipal Council and is assisted by the executive committee or the mayoral committee.
The executive or mayoral committee
There are two systems for the appointment of an executive:
So,'the executive' refers to the executive mayor and the mayoral committee OR the mayor plus the executive.
The executive or mayoral committee is made up of councillors with specific portfolios which match the departments within the municipal administration, for example, health. The executive and the mayor oversee the work of the municipal manager and department heads. The executive proposes policy and presents budget proposals to the whole council. The executive is accountable to the council and has to get approval from the council. Once policies and budgets are approved by council, the executive is responsible for ensuring that the municipal administration implements them. Councillors play a monitoring and oversight role in this process.
The municipal manager and municipal officials
The municipal manager is the chief executive officer and is the head of the administration of the council. H/she is responsible for the overall functioning of the administration, for managing the finances and for hiring and disciplining staff. Municipal council officials work for the administration.
A ward committee can be set up for each ward councillor to assist and advise the councillor and improve public participation. Ward committees can be set up in category A and B municipalities where the ward committee model is being used.
Ward committees are mainly advisory committees which can make recommendations on any matter affecting the ward within a Category B or Category A municipality. The municipal council makes the rules that guide the ward committees. The rules say how the members of the ward committee will be appointed, how often ward committee meetings will take place and the circumstances under which a member of a ward committee can be told to leave the committee.
The purpose of a ward committee is to:
Structure of ward committees
A ward committee consists of the councillor who represents the ward, as elected in the local government elections a maximum of 10 people from the ward who are elected by the community they serve. Women should be equally represented on ward committees.
The councillor is the chairperson of the ward committee. Members of the ward committee must participate as volunteers and are not paid for this work.
Role of the ward councillor on the ward committee
A ward councillor is directly elected to represent and serve the people in a specific ward. There are usually between 3 000 and 20 000 voters in a ward.
The ward councillor should make sure that the interests of the people in the ward are represented as properly as possible. The ward councillor should be in touch with the issues in the area, understand the key problems and monitor development and service delivery. In committees, caucus and council meetings, the ward councillor should act as a spokesperson for the people in the ward.
The ward councillor is the direct link between the council and the voters. H/she makes sure that voters are consulted and kept informed about council decisions, development and budget plans that affect them.
People can also bring their problems to the ward councillor and he/she should deal with these in an appropriate way, for example, by taking up matters with council officials.
Role of the ward committee
The main role of the ward committee is to make sure that voters are involved in and informed about council decisions that affect their lives. The ward committees should be set up in a way that it can reach most sectors and areas in the ward. The ward committee's main tasks are to communicate and consult with the community in respect of development and service plans. It has no formal powers however to force the council to do anything. The council should provide support, for example, providing publicity for meetings, giving financial support, to enable ward committee to do their work.
Main tasks of ward councillors and ward committees
Ward councillors and committees must know their communities and the people they represent. They should know:
Ward councillors and committee members can find out more about their communities through general community meetings and direct consultation (going door-to-door and/or conducting a survey).
They should also keep up to date with developments in the council in order to pass this information on to people in their ward.
In the 2008 Local Government Laws Amendment Act, an amendment of section 73 of Act 117 of 1998 (Structures Act) was made to ensure that 'out of pocket' expenses (of ward committee members) must be paid from the budget of the municipality in question. Metro or local councils must develop a policy and determine criteria for calculating the 'out of pocket' expenses and can allocate funds and resources to enable ward committees to perform their functions, exercise their powers and undertake development in their wards within the framework of the law.
The difference between councillors (elected representatives) and administration officials/employees
The distinction between the roles of elected representatives (councillors), and municipal employees(officials) is very important. Councillors are elected public representatives to serve for a period of five years. Councillors are elected by the people onto a local council, and only keep their positions if they are re-elected.
Officials or employees are appointed by municipal management to specific jobs within the municipal administration, and are like any other employee in a job.. Senior officials, such as the Municipal Manager, Chief Operating Officers, Director of Finance, Director of Housing etc, should have employment contracts subject to annual performance. Their performance agreements must be made public on the websites. Together they make up the management of a municipality
Councillors give political direction and leadership in the municipality, depending on the balance of power between the political parties elected to the council. Councillors and officials determine the policies and direction of the municipality
Officials should have the knowledge and skills on the technical and specialised aspects of municipal affairs. Councillors who don't have this knowledge have to rely on the reports of officials to help them make decisions. Councillors have to weigh up recommendations from officials with community needs and interests.
Once the council has reached a decision then officials are expected to carry these out in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
Links between the council and administration/employees
The main formal contact persons between councillors and the municipal administration are the Executive Mayor and the Municipal Manager. There should also be an informal relationship between each Mayoral or Executive Committee member and the matching head of department within the municipal administration, for example between the councillor responsible for health and the head of the health department.
There should be clear lines of communication and accountability, and separation of roles. A councillor should not interfere in the management or administration of a department, for example by giving direct instructions to municipal employees or interfering with the implementation of a council decision. Officials may not try to unduly influence the council, or provide it with misleading information.
Code of Conduct for Municipal Councillors
The Code of Conduct for Councillors is outlined in Schedule 1 of the Municipal Systems Act of 2000, and an additional code inserted in 2002. The Code of Conduct refers to general conduct, such as performing their functions of office in good faith, honestly and in a transparent matter, at all times acting in the best interest of the municipality, without compromising the credibility and integrity of the municipality.
Councillors must attend each meeting. Leave of absence is granted within the rules and orders of the council. Councillors may be sanctioned for non-attendance. Councillors should also disclose direct or indirect public or private business interest.
Personal gain - a councillor may not use their position or privilege as a councillor, or confidential information obtained as a councillor, for private gain or to improperly benefit another person. They cannot be party to, or beneficiary under a contract for the provision of goods or services to the municipality, or the performance of any work otherwise than as a councillor for the municipality; obtain a financial interest in any business of the municipality, acquire a fee by appearing on behalf of any other persons before the council or a committee.
A councillor should within 60 days of their appointment or election, declare in writing their financial interests that include shares and securities in any company, membership of a close corporation, interest in any trust, directorships, partnerships, pension, interest in property, subsidies, grants and sponsorship by any organisation, gifts above a prescribed amount must be declared. Full-time councillors may not undertake any other paid work.
A councillor may not request, solicit or accept any gift for voting/not voting on any matter; disclose privileged or confidential information; disclose any privileged or confidential information of the council or committee to any unauthorised person.
Other than provided by law, may not interfere in the management or administration of any department of the council unless mandated by council, give or purport to give any instruction to any employee of the council except when authorised to do so, encourage or participate in conduct that would cause or contribute to maladministration within the council.
A councillor may not use, take, acquire or benefit from any property or asset owned, controlled or managed by the municipality to which that councillor has no right.
A councillor may not be in arrears to the Municipality for rates and service charges for a period longer than 3 months.”
For more information, please see www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=68199
A code of conduct for municipal officials has not been prescribed by law as with the code of conduct for councillors. However, in February 2010, Parliament began to work on a Proposal to revise Code of Conduct for public officials.
Summary of the key principles
In summary, the Mayor and executive or mayoral committee are responsible for making policy and monitoring outcomes, while the Municipal Manager is responsible for managing the administration to implement policy and achieve the specified outcomes.
The Municipal Structures Act sets out codes of conduct for councillors (these codes apply equally to traditional leaders).
How decisions are made in council
Most councils follow the same pattern of decision-making as follows:
Raising issues with council
There are many different ways that councillors (and the public) can raise issues with the council. These are:
Councillors or individuals are allowed to send petitions to the municipal manager. The purpose of the petition is to inform the council and the administration that a large number of people want something to be done, for example, if a law is not being applied properly.
Petitions are handed to the council secretary at the council meeting. The petition is usually referred to the management committee that will then report to council. The officials send the petition around to the relevant departments who will make recommendations to the relevant portfolio or standing committees.
These committees then make recommendations to the executive. The executive discuss the petition and then make recommendations to the council.
The councillor or group that has sent the petition must follow its progress by keeping in contact with the relevant departments.
Questions to Council
Questions can be used to monitor council officials and get reliable information about council policies and programmes. Questions can be sent in writing or asked during a meeting. Written questions must be submitted 10 days before the council meeting that the officials have time to prepare the answers.
Answers will often be given at the meetings themselves. The executive chairperson can often answer a question verbally or provide a reply in writing. Any councillor can ask a question about executive recommendations or decisions and any executive member can make immediate verbal replies.
Collective and individual requests are the easiest way to get information or to bring problems to the attention of officials. When councillors table requests on behalf of their constituency, this should be done in a manner that respects protocol. If by-laws exist to address a request, then a positive response may be done quickly.
For example, if someone has a blocked water drain you can go to the relevant official and make a request to get it fixed. But if you want something new in your ward and there is no policy on this, then additional work and liaison and communication with other government departments may be necessary.
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