South African municipalities face severe challenges at the best of times. According to Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s 2017/2018 financial audit of municipalities, released in 2019, one-third of them spend more than they earn, with irregular and wasteful expenditure reaching R122 billion. Of the 257 audited municipalities, just 18 received clean audits. Performance reports by 65% of municipalities were dubious and close to unusable.
The fact that municipalities have not been delivering on their mandates is evident from ongoing service delivery protests, of which there were 218 in 2019. While the inclination has been to point fingers at corrupt individuals, some of the failures are due to weak governance, poor financial management, overburdened infrastructure, and a lack of human and institutional capacity. Where business has partnered with government to overcome some of these challenges, significant progress has been made. It is therefore clear why building capacity at local government level is considered a key factor in social development.
On 12 June 2020, responsible business consultancy Trialogue hosted a webinar on supporting local government, with panellists Paul Smith (head of local government support at Kagiso Trust) and John Lomberg (stakeholder relations manager at Santam) providing insight into how donors and companies can support municipalities during a crisis as well as under more normal circumstances.