Councillors and senior managers from municipalities in the iLembe district have completed extensive training to improve the management of public finances and to strengthen the oversight role expected of councillors.

The 35 councillors and managers received their certificates of competence at an awards ceremony recently after successfully completing Local Government SETA-accredited training.

The ceremony was attended by the Mayor and Speaker of iLembe District municipality, Speaker and Chief Whip of KwaDukuza Local Municipality and the Mayor of Maphumulo Local Municipality.

The training was offered by the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme as part of its mandate to create an enabling business environment for inclusive economic growth and job creation in the district. The Vuthela programme is funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and implemented in partnership with the KZN Department of Economic Affairs, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), the iLembe District Municipality and the local municipalities of KwaDukuza and Mandeni

The course was conducted by service provider Tachfin and targeted councillors who serve on committees related to financial issues and managers from all five municipalities. 

It used a blended training approach which included classes, e-learning and the submission of a portfolio of evidence. 

Training modules covered issues related to leadership, policy-making, emotional intelligence and monitoring and evaluation. The course was facilitated by Takura Chamuka, CEO of Tachfin Holdings.

Councillors and managers were enthusiastic about the benefits of the training.

Councillor Nelsingh Sewraj from KwaDukuza said the content of the course and the standard of facilitation was impressive.

“The training used various methods, including presentation, discussion groups and one-on-one follow-ups with trainees for several months,” said Councillor Sewraj.

“Previously, performance management and evaluation (PME) were a tick-box exercise for most councillors, but after doing this course, our understanding of PME improved and we now know what a valuable tool it can be to measure the performance of projects and managers.

“The module on leadership skills was greatly appreciated, especially by our young councillors who have just started in public service. It addressed many ethical issues and emphasised the need for strong leadership to steer the municipality in a specific direction.

“The module on policy formulation was also very helpful. In KwaDukuza, we have policies for everything, and new policies are still being developed. The problem we face is implementation of these policies, and this module helped us to understand this challenge better,” said Councillor Sewraj.

Councillor Thembinkosi Mhlongo from the Mandeni Local Municipality said the course helped to improve the oversight capacity of councillors.

“We needed clarity on our oversight role, and the training specified the frameworks that guide this role. The facilitator guided us and clarified the issues very well,” said Councillor Mhlongo.

“It was not only about theory. It was about being conscious of the significance of our work for the public.

“Now we understand why financial matters are managed in certain ways, and how we need to protect ourselves from corruption by observing and guiding without getting directly involved in a way that can be interpreted as corrupt.”

Councillor Sabelo Mfayela from Ndwedwe Local Municipality agreed that the training helped councillors and managers to execute their leadership duties without infringing laws: “It was important for us to understanding how municipal finance works, and how we fit in by playing an oversight role.”

Ms Nokuthula Bhengu, a manager from KwaDukuza Local Municipality, said she appreciated the module relating to emotional intelligence.

“The emotional intelligence training should be offered to all other staff, including juniors, because it changes how one behaves. We cannot just sit back and fold our arms. We have to apply ourselves and think about how we can benefit our communities,” she said.

The positive response from the managers and councillors who attended the training indicates that it met its objective of strengthening the capacity of councillors and senior managers and empowering all role players to engage meaningfully with municipal finances.