02 August 2016

How do you catch a Municipal Manager and pin them to down to a meeting?

PAIA places a great many duties on municipalities to provide records both proactively and in response to requests from the public, and, despite any delegation of duties under the Act, municipal managers – by definition the information officers of their respective municipalities – remain responsible for compliance with these duties. Despite this many municipal managers are not aware of their duties and responsibilities under PAIA.

Feedback from officials during the pilot phase of SAHA's local government capacity building project made it clear that without the understanding of, and buy-in from, municipal managers PAIA’s aim of ensuring a culture of transparency and accountability and effective access to information will remain simply an ideal. For this reason both SAHA and our collaborative partner in the second phase of the capacity building project, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) KwaZulu-Natal, specifically requested the attendance of municipal managers at this year's training workshops. Sadly, despite SAHA and SALGA's efforts, the municipal managers of eThekwini, Umlalazi, Umhlathuze, Umzimkhulu and Ugu Municipality all failed to attend even one of the two worshops in the series presented so far.

Specifically it is important that these municipal managers realise that they remain responsible, among other things, for ensuring that their municipality:

  • Creates and maintains records and keeps those records in an accessible mannner; 
  • Provides timely, accessible and accurate information to the people they serve;
  • Complies with duties, created by legislation such as the Municipal Systems Act, 2000 and the Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003, that require that records, including by-laws, annual budgets and performance agreements, are made accessible on their website; and
  • Creates and updates a PAIA manual, in order to help people to understand what information is available from their municipality and how they can access that information – a failure to ensure that this happens could lead to the municipal manager being fined, personally, or even imprisoned for up to two years.

With such a deterrent, one would have expected that municipal managers would be keen to ensure that they understand clearly the duties they remain responsible for under PAIA.

SAHA has, with the third and final workshop in this training series coming up in September, again made a concerted effort to contact the municipal managers, of the muncipalities participating in this training, directly; and has again asked that they ensure their attendance at the final workshop. It is our hope that, with an increasing awareness of their duties and responsibilities under PAIA and a persistent invite from SAHA, we will finally see some municipal managers in the room this September.