10 August 2016

A series of compliant decisions coming out of local government

With the excitement of the 2016 local government elections still fresh in our minds it is an apt time to reflect on a PAIA request that was submitted to eThekwini, the City of Cape Town and the City of Johannesburg for records relating to the funding by the Metro's of the Nicki Minaj and T.I. concerts.

The backdrop for the submission of these requests was a report in the media in which it was alleged that eThekwini Municipality had contributed financially to the hosting of these international artists. SAHA was interested in finding out what the basis for the decision to fund a part of the concert was, especially considering that any budgetary adjustments must be made in terms of a Municipal Adjustment budget for entertainment.  Section 28(5) of the Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (Act No. 56 of 2003) requires that, when tabled before Council, such an adjustment budget must be accompanied by supporting documents, so requesting these records would allow a look at the basis for the decision.

SAHA was keen in particular to test whether the records were available and whether the Metro's would provide us with their records as SAHA has over the last year and a half been doing capacity building work at the local level. This training focuses on ensuring transparency by making sure there is record creation and that records are kept in an accessible manner so that access can be granted proactively or when formal PAIA requests are received. The submissions made to the City of Cape Town and the City of Johannesburg were essentially control requests to see why those two Metro's did not apparently contribute to the hosting of the events in their jurisdictions as opposed to eThekwini who did.

It turned out from the released records that the reasons eThekwini funded part of the concert was primarily to promote Durban as a destination city for tourists. The City also released the minutes of the meeting where the Adjustment Budget was voted on as well as records relating to the breakdown of the costs involved in the partial hosting of the event. The records released showed that a certain number of tickets were allocated to the City, possibly to "sweeten the deal".

The other two requests submitted to the City of Johannesburg and the City of Cape Town yielded the anticipated responses that they did not contribute to the hosting of the concerts in their jurisdictions presumably because it was not deemed to be of benefit to their Cities. As there was no such funding in these cities the requested budgets and supporting documents did not exist, and SAHA received, instead of records, affidavits in terms of section 23 of PAIA for these requests.

All in all, and both in terms of PAIA compliance and local government transparency the requests submitted have left SAHA feeling positive about transparency at the local level that is heading in the right direction.


http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/ethekwini-municipality-to-splurge-r37m-on-nicki-minaj-and-ti-concerts-20160308 [accessed last on 2016/08/10]