ARTICLE BY DON FORBES – DOCRRA COMMITTEE MEMBER
Important aspects of a councillor are that of a representative of the community and a requirement is to improve the lives of all in the municipality. As such effective representation requires the councillor to know his/her ward and the people who live in the ward.
Councillors need to have an understanding of council procedures and processes.This requires a working knowledge of key responsibilities of a councillor and understanding of the principles that will affect their actions as a councillors. To achieve these a councillor is expected to evaluate the policies and programmes of the council together with the needs of the community.
Councillors are bound by a Code of Conduct as set in schedule 5 of the Municipal Structures Act 1998 requiring that they perform their functions of office in good faith, honesty and in a transparent manner maintain a good record of attendance at council and ward committee meetings, public meetings. A councillor is therefore subject to the laws that govern all other public officers, as the Act defines the municipality as a public office.
The role of the Councillor:
- The ward councillor acts as chair of the ward committee his/her role being specified in the Municipal Structures Act 1998.
- A councillor may in terms of the Municipal Finance Act of 2003 at the directive of the Mayor sit on various internal committees
- Ward councillors may receive complaints from the public on specific issues or problems and should offer advice and assistance in resolving the issues.
- Should know the key issues of their community, this done through regular consultation and report backs to the community. To do this, a councillor requires to have a working knowledge of local government, the policies and programmes of the municipality, and to take these into account in consideration in addressing the needs of the community.
- Assist with petitions as appropriate and follow up concerns on behalf of constitutions. It should be noted that a councillor cannot instruct an official in respect of the latter but expects prompt and efficient response as a councillor right comes with accountability to the community.
- Of prime importance, a councillor must be diligent in their engagement and report back to their constituencies on what the council is committed to and progress being made.
- Report back should be done through community forums, constituency meetings and ward committee meetings.
Municipal work is essentially a public activity. Communication is based on a communication strategy to be familiar with the communication strategy of the council, direct communication and an exchange a needs views and key decisions of the council.
- Councillors are elected public representatives to service the community on the council.
- Councillors are expected to maintain constant communication with the people.
- Councillors are bound by a Code of Conduct.
- Councillors should be aware of the principle of Batho Pele (the people first). The White Paper that aims to provide citizen-oriented service to the community.