n Journal of Public Administration - Accountability and oversight in municipal financial management : the role of municipal public accounts committees

Volume 48, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



South Africa is a unitary state with three distinct and interdependent spheres of government. The local sphere of government is constitutionally deemed unique and autonomous from the two spheres of government. This necessitated the local government sphere to establish its own financial systems and processes with limited oversight and accountability mechanisms than in the national and provincial spheres. The national government therefore, in exercising accountability and oversight on municipal financial management in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, relies on performance review reports of the Auditor-General (A-G). In reviewing the management of finances and accountability, the Auditor-General raises shortcomings in how local governments (municipalities) account and respond to the reports. This necessitated the establishment of Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs) to close gaps as well as deficiencies in the local government oversight and accountability mechanisms, which are entrenched in the new legal and financial management policy framework. All municipalities have established MPACs and populated them with members from the contingent of non-executive councillors. The terms of reference and process plans have been developed and adopted.

As oversight function of this nature in the local government sphere in South Africa is new, an uncharted territory. To this end one is inclined to ask, will the MPACs succeed in closing gaps as well as deficiencies in oversight and accountability mechanisms like Standing Committees on Public Accounts (SCOPA) are, at national and provincial spheres of government? The article examines and analyses the role played by recently established Municipal Public Accounts Committees in closing gaps and deficiencies in oversight and accountability at the local sphere of government particularly, and Standing Committees on Public Accounts in the national and provincial spheres to some extent, and compare and contrast SCOPA and MPACs to determine the extent to which MPACs can achieve objectives envisioned in their establishment. The challenges faced by the MPACs are highlighted and thereafter recommendations are made.

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