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Accountability, a crucial element of successful municipal management

Liability for the spendig of public funds can be improved by acting consistently and with purpose against officials who willfully fail to comply with legislation, or who are guilty of fraud or misconduct.

The regulations recorded in the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act) clearly stipulate that municipal management must investigate matters such as unauthorized, irregular and fruitless spending of funds. These include the possible misuse of the Supply Chain Management system (including fraud and misconduct), and allegations of financial misconduct and possible fraud.

Appropriate steps should be taken based on the outcome of these investigations. Municipalities with poor accountability management practices in place are often prone to corruption or fraud. It is therefore clear that officials must be held accountable, to fight corruption. Robert Kitgaard set out the need for liability in a formula and is shown in Fig. 1.

Corruption has good breeding grounds when decisions may be made without adequate supervision or accountability. Sometimes officials have sole power to make decisions, and often they may do so at their own discretion. Currently, there are a number of services (including water and sanitation) that cannot be provided by national and/or provincial government, nor by any of their service providers. When making financial decisions, municipal officials have a degree of discretion and in some cases officials decide to deviate from procurement processes due to, for example, poor planning. If a strong culture of accountability does not exist, these actions could create an environment conducive to corruption.

The solution is very simple: The elected / appointed people at the helm must accept responsibility for the office they hold, and face disciplinary consequences if they do not fulfill their mandate.

In the case of municipalities, it is therefore the political leadership, senior management and officials who must accept responsibility for transgressions. Unfortunately, in many municipalities there is already a climate where the willingness to accept responsibility is not the order of the day. This inevitably makes corruption and fraudulancy much easier. It is very sad though, because in fact, funds that were intended to provide the public with basic needs, are getting lost this way. Most municipalities have the required policies and processes in place, to ensure that violations and fraud are identified and prosecuted, but these are not implemented. This behavior proves that a commitment to liability does not exist.

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