November 17, 2018

News:

Nkosinjane Speelman

1on1-the-weekly

the-weekly-sl11In a wide ranging interview with The Weekly’s Thapelo Molebatsi the new executive mayor of Matjhabeng Local Municipality, Nkosinjane Speelman, speaks about his council’s plans to boost service delivery, fight poverty and unemployment and fix financial administration at the municipality that the auditor general’s office ranked among the worst offenders in the 2014/2015 financial year when it comes to wasteful and unauthorised. Excerpts:

What can residents of Matjhabeng Local Municipality expect from their new mayor? What’s your word to ratepayers in terms of the challenges confronting the municipality?
Well I am aware of the challenges before me as the leader of the pack but government is not about one person but rather about the collective, and I think one thing we are agreed upon as the new council is the need to establish a people-centred culture of service delivery and customer care along the Batho Pele principles.

We need to create a culture were a municipal employee should be about serving our citizens, not about entitlement and power. We also need to encourage and reward innovation and initiatives among our employees that seek to improve service delivery.

It is only through these efforts that we will be able to transform the municipality to where it needs to and should be.

Government is about the collective, so how does this collective that has taken charge of Matjhabeng plan to fix the municipality? What solutions do you have?
The reality is that we don’t have an overnight solution to address all the challenges at one go.

We are well aware of the mammoth task that lies ahead as far as service delivery is concerned and the responsibility on us as the new executive council to resolve them as we seek to bring about change in the lives of residents.

Therefore we’ve met as the council and agreed that an in-depth analysis that will pinpoint what the exact problems are in the municipality is to be conducted.

The reason for this decision is because we can never really resolve our challenges or problems for as long as we apply a one-size-fit-all approach.

Such an approach would further deepen the problems and not bring solutions to our shores. Once this process (in-depth analysis) has unfolded and specific strategies have been formulated, only then will we begin to see progress in our municipality.

But surely you should already be aware of what most of these problems are?
Well yes we are aware of the problems. The move to do an in-depth analysis is not because we are ignorant of our problems. This analysis is aimed at developing specific solutions for specific problems.

Service delivery is an obvious area that will require your attention but so is unemployment and poverty among residents. What plans do you have to fight unemployment and reduce poverty among residents?
Both poverty and unemployment remain a serious challenge in our municipality and it will be a lie for any leader to suggest that this is something that can be resolved overnight because it cannot, especially in our municipalities where we don’t have an influx of investors coming in.

However, the task to eradicate poverty and unemployment is often placed on shoulders of the municipality which is wrong.

To say we have solutions on standby to deal with poverty would be a lie. Ours will be to meet with all stakeholders in our municipality to find common long term solutions on how we can lure investors to our municipality and create sustainable jobs.

Your municipality was named by the auditor general’s office as among the worst offenders in the previous financial year as far as wasteful and unauthorised expenditure is concerned. How do you intend to steer the ship in the right direction and ensure that you do way with wasteful expenditure?
The outcome of the previous financial audits left much to be desired and this is something one cannot deny because it painted a rather negative picture about the municipality, both politically and administratively.

The reality is we cannot have this much money being uncounted for; not when we are confronted with the various challenges as far as rendering of service is concerned.

What is therefore important is that we recruit the right people for the right positions to ensure that we do away with wasteful and unauthorised expenditure. And not only that, we must also retain those employees that we already have who have the right qualifications.

We also need to nurture and develop more skills. All these elements will ensure that we steer the municipality in the right direction and allow us to deliver better services to the people in our municipality.

But what do you think could have been the reason for the municipality’s underperformance in the previous financial year?
Underperformance can be attributed to many aspects. At times it’s because the wrong people are placed in key positions and at times it’s that the person occupying the position is not as well equipped as he or she should be and that has proven to be the case in many institutions, not only municipalities.

However, in this particular case I don’t think I can make that kind of diagnosis off the top of my head. I can, however, say as a municipality we intend to get the right people in the right positions. And this is not to suggest that this was previously not the case, I am simply saying that financial competence is key in rooting out underperformance.

Municipalities have often come under fire for failure to deal with those found to be at the centre of corruption or underperformance. What is your take on the matter?
In our meeting last week with staff members we made it clear (that) any member found to be on the wrong side of the law will face the consequences.

The reality is that the municipality is often taking the heat for other people’s incompetence and failure to adhere to the rules … we are not going to stand for this. Once investigations have been conducted and perpetrators are found guilty, they will be shown the door regardless of their political affiliation. We are not here to serve egos or advance private agendas … ours is delivery, nothing else.

The issue is always skills. Where will the skills that you need to achieve all you have stated come from?
Undoubtedly the issue of skills is a concern not only for our municipality but for many others in the country. To deal with the issue we will work closely with the provincial treasury who will assist with financial experts to ensure that we do things correctly.

But for me what’s important in this process is the need to create an environment of responsiveness, high performance and clear accountability from all employees. This will go a long way in defeating the demon of poor performance.

Lastly, Matjhabeng came under serious criticism from at last week’s 20th Smarter Revenue Protection Convention for lack of political will in dealing with the issue of copper cable theft that is said to be rife in the municipality. What is your take on the matter?
The problem we have in our society is that people often expect the ANC to come up with overnight solutions to every problem … but that is not impossible. Copper theft is a problem in Matjhabeng … a problem that becomes an even bigger when members of the community become spectators instead of doing their bit to help deal with the problem.

I cannot speak of the top of my head about the strategies previously employed to deal with the matter, however I do know that we have a dedicated task team, with people trained to address the issue. However I also need to emphasise that many of these problems will not be resolved for as long as politicians are the only ones expected to do everything, while everyone else sits on the bench, pointing out mistakes without doing anything to help provide solutions.

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