National Council of Provinces debate on co-operative governance and inter-governmental relations

26 August 2010

On behalf of the Northern Cape Provincial Government, I would like to convey our best wishes and sincere appreciation to the NCOP for its continued support in ensuring that Provinces carry out their mandate to the best of their abilities.

Our relatively new Administration, under the custodianship of President Jacob Zuma, is convinced that through effective coordination across Government as a whole, and acting in harmony with communities, we can accelerate service delivery and sustainable development.

We established the Framework for Intergovernmental relations which provide ways for all spheres to work together effectively. The three spheres of government need to work in partnership and constantly communicate with each other so that each sphere is aware of their roles and responsibilities in driving provincial priorities and ensure that local needs are considered in line with national and provincial law-making processes.

Intergovernmental relations are intended to promote and facilitate cooperative decision making and ensuring that policies, activities and programmes encourage service delivery across all spheres of government that meet the needs of the citizens in an effective way.

Honourable Members, for us to achieve our vision of a caring, responsive and a people-centred and people-driven government, it is essential for all spheres to work in harmony with each other to achieve our goal of effective service delivery to our communities, poverty eradication, good governance, enhancing social integration and promoting the advancement of women which remain among the key priorities in our programme for decisive action and change.

Of critical importance is the ongoing need to strengthen partnerships between Provincial government, local government, communities and civil society. We need to ensure that communities and other development partners are mobilized to partner with municipalities in service delivery and development.

Various challenges, especially the poor revenue base of the majority of the Municipalities in the Northern Cape, have negatively affected the capacity and performance of our municipalities to deliver effective services to our communities who interact directly with them on a regular basis.

It is for this reason, that all spheres of government must play a distinct and pro-active role in the process of socio-economic development with special focus on our province’s rural population in terms of them maintaining sustainable livelihoods. Through sustained efforts, our system of co-operative government has made impressive progress in various segments of our economy, particularly in agriculture and rural communities.

The Northern Cape Province has prioritised the important issue of cooperative governance and intergovernmental relations to improve the quality of life of all our people and ensure effective service delivery to our people. We have committed ourselves to ensure that systems and structures and procedures are developed and enforced to deal with possible maladministration and ensure that municipalities communicate and account more to communities. We have also worked around the clock to ensure that the core administrative and institutional systems are in place and are operational to improve performance.

Through cooperative governance and intergovernmental relations, we will ensure that our municipalities are able to attend effectively to the matter of quality service delivery in a manner that continues to improve the lives of all our people. Local government is thus the focal point of delivery of all government services.

Ladies and Gentlemen I am pleased to advise that our Executive Council together with the relevant Municipality in a particular area or region in the Northern Cape has also embarked on an interactive programme with communities, which is termed the “EXCO Outreach Programme”. In essence this Outreach Programme is characterised by intense and meaningful engagement with communities to determine their needs, particularly from a service delivery perspective. Although certain challenges remain we are, by all accounts, convinced that we are gradually making the necessary inroads in addressing the needs of communities.

This strategy is designed to ensure that municipalities meet basic needs of communities. This implies that an environment is created, support provided and systems built to accelerate quality service delivery within the context of each municipality’s specific conditions and needs.

As South Africans we are indeed a unique breed of people for we have pioneered a system of co-operative governance underpinned by democratic norms and values. In a short space of time we have made progressive strides in giving meaning to our co-operative model of governance based on our constitutional imperative for co-operation between the spheres of government.

Thus, this constitutional imperative calls on the respective spheres to assist and support each other to protect the well being of our country by providing a government that is both transparent and accountable to the people. Indeed, we have formalised structures in place with specific focus areas and objectives outlined in the policy and legislative framework. Be that as it may our system of co-operative government needs a major overhaul.

One of the critical factors that must be addressed in the enhancement of this system is the principle of accountability. In my home province, like in all other provinces, we have intergovernmental structures that interact and operate on a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” in the absence of a legal framework. Attendance of meetings is not obligatory and this has a negative impact regarding the content and quality of debate and discussion.

In conclusion Ladies and Gentlemen, since the promulgation of the IGR Act on 13 August 2005 we have, on a government-wide basis, established formal structures with specific focus areas and objectives. However, the following questions remain:

How many of these structures are in sync with the aims and vision of the IGR Act?
Do we need a more rationalised and strategic IGR and co-operative governance approach?
Is the substance of current IGR engagements adequate and in the best interests of the people we serve?
How does contestation between spheres of government, government departments and organs of state undermine the letter and spirit of co-operative governance?

While we are proud of our system of co-operative governance and intergovernmental relations, much more work needs to be done to synchronise the planning and delivery cycles of the three spheres of government. What is also needed is a simpler and more effective IGR approach to accelerate our developmental objectives to ensure a degree of coherence in the intergovernmental arena.

I thank you

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