Adopting the Public Accounts Committee Model for financial oversight in South African municipalities - a case study of the Public Accounts Committee in the City of Cape Town
Since its inception in 1861 when the first public accounts committee was established in the United Kingdom, this oversight mechanism has developed into a model for non-executive financial oversight and accountability at the national and provincial levels of government throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. A few municipalities in South Africa have also established public accounts committees, but they are a few isolated cases. The hesitance on the part of South African municipalities to establish a good governance mechanism with a proven track record is a cause of concern, especially in view of the poor financial management that prevails throughout the local sphere of government. In this case study of the public accounts committee established in the City of Cape Town in 2006, the researcher explores the feasibility of the implementation of the public accounts committee model within the local government sphere in South Africa. Twenty internationally recognised public accounts committee practices were identified and used to probe the selected case to gain in-depth knowledge of the extent to which the committee adheres to these recognised practices. Where the committee deviated from accepted practices, the reasons for the deviation and its impact on the effectiveness of the committee were analysed. Finally, the key lessons learnt from the experience of the public accounts committee in the City of Cape Town are used in order to make two sets of recommendations: Firstly, recommendations on how the public accounts committee of the City of Cape Town can become more effective than it currently is – recommendations which are also relevant to any municipality wishing to establish a public accounts committee. The second set of recommendations is addressed to the national authorities in charge of finance and local government, as the challenge of establishing improved governance systems in local government is of national importance, and it is within the power of these authorities to remove a few key obstacles in the way of establishing municipal public accounts committees.