SERVICE delivery backlogs in the Eastern Cape amount to a staggering R42-billion and the government will have to triple its allocations in the next three to four years if universal access in the province is to be achieved.
The backlogs relate mainly to sanitation and water, parliament heard yesterday.
South Africa as a whole has accumulated backlogs amounting to hundreds of billions of rand, with the Eastern Cape among the worst affected provinces.
Presenting an overview of governance and financial management issues in Eastern Cape municipalities at a joint meeting of parliament's public service and administration committee and the committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs, provincial officials said the sanitation backlog amounted to R20.8-billion, water to R5.4-billion, bulk sanitation to R6-billion and bulk water to R6.2-billion.
They told MPs that three grants received by national government to deal with the backlogs were insufficient, and warned that "if the funding trends remain the same, to achieve universal access the target will be met in 2025 or beyond".
"To bring forward the universal access closer to the 2016-17 financial year, the funding needs to be tripled from R3-billion to R10-billion annually on the municipalinfrastructure grant only," they said. The officials reported that in 2010-11, only 13 of the 45 municipalities in the province received unqualified audit reports from the auditor-general on their financial statements, with 13 getting qualified reports, 17 disclaimers and two adverse opinions.
A total of 116 investigations were conducted into the financial affairs of municipalities by the provincial government in the 2010-11 financial year, 79 of which were related to maladministration, corruption and fraud, 17 to supply-chain management and tender irregularities, five to land sales and 15 to "service-orientated matters".
Of the 116 cases, 59 had been completed, 18 had been handed over to the premier's office and other departments, and 39 were still pending.
Other provinces also reported the dependence of municipalities on grant funding to address infrastructure backlogs and the insufficiency of these grants to deal with the problem.
The lack of technical capacity within municipalities also resulted in the slow implementation of infrastructure projects.