Court finds Sakeliga’s Auditor-General application laudable, but legislative amendments require a longer process

Foto: Moneyweb
Foto: Moneyweb

The Gauteng High Court found today that Sakeliga’s attempt to shed light on the dysfunctionality of municipalities is laudable, but due to recent amendments to the law, a longer process must follow. Sakeliga will, therefore, continue its action to obtain the Auditor-General of South Africa’s (the “AG”) detailed management reports on decaying municipalities.

We regret that the AG continues to refuse to make the management reports available, notwithstanding their public interest. Her actions are reprehensible and to the public detriment. She should make all the management reports available immediately, which will eliminate all further delays.

Sakeliga launched a court application against the AG last year after she refused to publish the management reports of 154 problem municipalities. Sakeliga wants to provide the reports to chambers of commerce and the public so that they can accurately determine what is causing the problems in their municipalities and who is responsible for them. This will usher in a new era for accountability and public interest litigation.

The High Court found today that the purpose of Sakeliga’s application is laudable, but that recent amendments to the Promotion of Access to Information Act (the “PAIA”) now require additional administrative steps from an information requester before the court can be approached. This entails that in certain circumstances a complaint must first be made to the Information Regulator. However, the ruling emphasises that Sakeliga may indeed be entitled to the records if the processes as in the amended law are followed.

Sakeliga welcomes the court’s confirmation of the cardinal importance of such applications to shed light on the mismanagement and collapse at municipalities. In consultation with our legal team, we will now determine the next steps to obtain the records. This may involve the Information Regulator being approached over time to oblige the AG to deliver the management reports, after which the court may have to be approached again.