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When no one wants to take responsibility

By Nelly Shamase

The left foot doesn’t know what the right foot is doing.

How else can one explain the fact that a national department has no idea what its provincial counterpart is doing?

Whose directive do provincial departments follow if their national bodies have no clue about a pilot project that was meant to lead to an eventual countrywide roll-out?

In this instance, the culprit is the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta).

At the centre of it all: a Belgian sourced information technology system known as Cipal that is meant to revolutionise the way municipalities are run.

The initial view was that Cipal would be tested in Gauteng municipalities before a provincial, then national rollout.

However, the Westonaria Local Municipality now faces an investigation led by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) over various allegations of mismanagement.

Part of the SIU investigation revolves around the dubious manner in which Lefatshe Technologies got the job to install and implement Cipal at Westonaria.

Allegations are that Cipal has not revolutionised Westonaria and Mogale Local Municipality DA caucus leader Dennis Pretorius has also called for an investigation over the questionable manner in which Lefatshe got the rights to install Cipal at Mogale.

No offence, but trying to get comment from national department spokesperson Vuyelwa Vika was like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

Of the eleven questions emailed to her, Vika thought responses of N/A were sufficient for seven of those.

Even more shocking was her response to the following:

Q: Can you explain exactly what the Cipal system is meant to do for municipalities?

A: This is not in the department’s programmes so I don’t not have an answer for you.

Strange.

On January 28 last year, Vika sent out a press release stating that Cogta Minister Sicelo Shiceka was scheduled to lead a South African delegation to Belgium to investigate technology that would improve various spheres of local government.

On February 3, Vika issued a follow-up statement announcing Shiceka’s impending meeting with Cipal heads.

Now consider Vika’s response to the following:

Q: The idea, according to reported stories quoting Minister Shiceka, was that there would be a pilot phase in Gauteng before an eventual national roll-out. How far is the project? In which municipalities has it been installed and out of those, which municipalities are using it? What is the success rate?

A: Only the Municipalities that use such a system would be able to help you, municipalities do not share information about their IT systems with the department.

Now excuse my ignorance, if municipalities do not inform the department of their IT systems then why did Shiceka go to Belgium to look into the very same technology that he envisaged would be used by all municipalities?

Something doesn’t add up here.

To make matters worse, attempts to get a more comprehensive response from Cogta’s provincial department — the custodians of the provincial pilot project — were not much better.

Emailed the very same questions as those sent to Vika, Gauteng Cogta spokesperson Motsamai Motlhaolwa did a copy-and-paste job of Vika’s responses and sent them to us.

“Info as requested”, read the top of the email.

Uhhm, not actually.

In a telephonic conversation after the fact, he insisted that national was best equipped to respond. But after being pressed, he undertook to look into sending a provincial response.

Two weeks later, I’m still waiting.

When the shit hits the fan, no one wants to take responsibility.

It’s no wonder municipalities in this country are floundering.