Financial hardship hits councils

Baitshepi Sekgweng

Almost 26 Councils Operating On Deficit

Despite holding a lot of responsibilities which include amongst others feeding primary schools, buying stationery and paying out social welfare benefits, many councils are currently operating on deficit during the 2023/24 financial year. Currently 26 councils out of 31 are operating on deficit, a predicament which has led to bad service delivery by the affected cout councils.

This was said by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kgotla Autlwetse when answering a question from member of parliament for Thamaga-Kumakwane, Pelaelo Motaosane who wanted an update on distribution of rural sector grant RSG) among districts and town councils on the proposed 2024/25 financial year budget.

According to Autlwetse ,the RSG for the 2024/25 financial year was guided by local authority budget bids ,nature of expenditures and ability for those local authorities to generate own source of revenue .

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“Priority in this regard was given to statutory and mandatory expenditures such as personal emoluments ,social welfare benefits and school stationery .The remainder of funds were allocated on the basis of district budget bids since it was discretionary expenditures .As a result councils are encouraged to exercise financial prudence,prioritize expenditure and implement cost containment measures,” he said .

However, government continues to rationalize the budget in order to assist local authorities, having augmented the RSG by P100 million to cover the rising operational costs for the 2023/24 financial year. The same arrangement has been made to the 2024/25 proposed budget though it is not adequate enough due to the constrained government resource envelope.

“Therefore councils are encouraged to find alternative sources of revenue .Property rating as the largest source of income for local governments has been extended to district councils that have substantial levels of economic activity to enable them to leverage on these in their revenue maximisation efforts,” said Autlwetse adding that, local government ministry will also re-look into the current licences fees with a view to stagger them considering the different sectors of the economy.

For the 2024/25 financial year budget, the RSG stands at P5.2 billion for the 31 district, town and city councils which has a cumulative figure of 513 gazetted villages under their care. Gaborone and Francistown City Councils lead the pack with allocations of P363.9 million and P244.3 million respectively while Tlokweng District and Sua Town Council are the lowest with allocations of P89.4 million and P60.3 million.

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