‘Inter-governmental relations’ means the relationships between the three spheres of government. The Constitution states, “the three spheres of government are distinctive, interdependent and inter-related”. Local government is a sphere of government in its own right, and is not an administrative implementing arm of national or provincial government. Although the three spheres of government are autonomous, they exist in a unitary South Africa and they have to work together on decision-making and must co-ordinate budgets, policies and activities.
Although the three spheres of government are autonomous, they have to work together on decision-making and must co-ordinate budgets, policies and activities, particularly for those functions that cut across the spheres.
Co-operative governance means that the three spheres of government should work together (co-operate) to provide citizens with comprehensive service delivery. The Constitution states that the three spheres have to assist and support each other, share information and co-ordinate their efforts.
Implementation of policies and government programmes requires close co-operation between the spheres of government, especially at Executive level. Local government is represented in the National Council of the Provinces although the representatives do not have voting rights. It is also represented in other important institutions like the Financial and Fiscal Commission. The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) is an independent body that is set up under the Constitution to advise government on the portion of revenue that should go to provincial and local government to subsidise services for poor people (the equitable share).
The Division of Revenue Act (DORA) lays down how the total government income (revenue) should be divided and allocated between the spheres of government and within government. Local government is also represented on the Budget Council where the Minister of Finance discusses the proposed budget with provincial and local government.
The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is the official representative of local government. SALGA has nine provincial offices. Local municipalities join SALGA at provincial level. Executive elections and decisions on policies and programmes happen at provincial or national general meetings. SALGA is also an employers’ organisation for all municipal workers, and sits as the employer in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council. SALGA’s main source of funding is membership fees payable by municipalities.
The different spheres of government depend on each other for support in project implementation, and regular communication is essential. For example, when a municipality proposes the development of a new housing development in its spatial development framework and integrated development plan, health and education services have to be provided by provincial government. Water services have to be provided by national government, and funding for housing development have to be transferred from national to provincial government from where it goes to the housing developers approved by the municipality. Some spheres of government are responsible for initial funding, others for medium term operational costs, whilst other have to provide capital costs.