Accounting officers to be held accountable

Mr Jan Viljoen, Chairperson of TAU SA North, expressed the hope that the strong words in the Budget Circular no 49 issued on 29 June 2009 by the National Treasury will be implemented and assists local communities to hold municipal managers accountable in a court of law.
Ms Roné Hennop, chairperson of the Provincial Local Government Committee said that the budget circular has strong words and a stern warning to the Accounting Officers (municipal managers) of municipalities. The circular referred to section 65(2)(f) of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) which states that “the accounting officer of a municipality must … take all reasonable steps to ensure that the municipality complies with its tax, levy, duty, pension, medical aid, audit fees and other statutory commitments.” The circular continues “it is imperative that the accounting officer take steps to ensure that the municipality concerned honour its obligations for payment of audit fees and other financial commitments, when such payments are due.”
Under section 173(1) of the MFMA the accounting officer is guilty of an offence if that accounting officers ‘deliberately or in a grossly negligent way, contravenes or fails to comply with a provision of section 65(2)(f).” Me Hennop warns all municipal managers that criminal charges against them is a reality and they should take their responsibility very seriously – they are being paid very well and must now live up to the expectations.
The circular further stated that “The failure of municipalities to meet their commitments to the Auditor-General is a serious or persistent breach of the measures established in terms of section 216(1) of the Constitution. On request from the Auditor-General, the National Treasury in terms of section 38 of the MFMA, will consider instructing departments responsible for the transfer of funds to withhold such transfer for the amount deemed by the Auditor-General to be owed to them by the municipality.”
Hennop said that sometimes bitter medicine is the best medicine. Therefore, communities are requested to assist municipalities by strong measures such as the establishment of Rate Payers Associations and pay monies due into a trust account. Further, communities must embark on orderly and lawful mass action to put pressure on fat cat municipal officials who do not perform.
She said that for more than 10 years local communities waited patiently for fat cat political appointed municipal managers to get their act together. It is now time to investigate the possibility of criminal proceedings against municipal managers as accounting officers. She said the MFMA provides for such action and it is not only National Treasury or the Auditor-General that can take this serious, but long overdue, action.
Viljoen said the gross negligence, corruption and destruction of rural towns must stop. Local communities deserve to live in a decent way – they are paying for it. He urged local communities to use all legal ways to force non-performing political appointed municipal managers out of their fat cat cosy non-performing positions.