Qualifying councillors who will not return after next month’s local government elections will share a R350 million once-off gratuity equivalent of three months salary to help them meet “already-entered-into financial commitments”.
Department of Co-operative Governance director-general Avril Williamson has told all heads of provincial departments responsible for local government, SA Local Government Association (Salga) chief executive Xolile George and municipal managers of the country’s 257 municipalities that the non-returning councillors will be paid from November 15.
According to Williamson, the National Treasury has already appropriated the funds for the payment of non-returning councillors, which have already been transferred to the department for further processing.
”The main purpose of the once-off gratuity is to assist non-returning councillors to adjust to circumstances as they no longer find themselves in office, and to assist them to meet already-entered-into financial commitments,” Williamson indicated in a circular dated October 6.
Documents released during former finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech in February this year revealed that non-returning municipal councillors would be allocated R350m.
Salga has also confirmed that a request for funding was made to the National Treasury, and R350m was set aside.
Non-returning councillors were also paid the once-off gratuity after the 2011 and 2016 municipal polls, and the bill in both instances ran into millions of rand following recommendations by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
Salga has stated that after the 2016 municipal polls, the National Treasury allocated R309.3m to be shared by non-returning councillors, more than 5 500 individual applications were screened, and a total of about R274m was paid.
After the 2011 local government elections, a total of R139m was paid to eligible recipients between 2011 and 2014 following applications from more than 4 000 non-returning councillors.
Members of Parliament and provincial legislatures receive a gratuity after leaving office, and to promote uniform norms and standards it was recommended that councillors also receive a similar benefit.
All payments of the once-off gratuity will be made directly from the Department of Co-operative Governance to beneficiaries, according to Williamson.
To be eligible for the once-off gratuity, non-returning councillors will need to have served for a period of at least 24 continuous months, and must also have been in office three months prior to the local government elections.
However, the former councillors will need to first make certain undertakings.
”I will not be eligible for receiving the gratuity if I do not meet the requirements as set out in the payment model, or if I return as a public office-bearer in any sphere of government, or as an employee in any sphere of government before February 1, 2022. If the gratuity is received before I took up public office or employment, I hereby undertake to repay the gratuity in full to the department by no later than March 31, 2022,” reads the declaration to be signed by potential beneficiaries.
The once-off gratuity will be based on the last basic salary earned excluding travel and housing allowances, municipal contributions to a pension fund and a medical aid scheme.
Sitting, non-pensionable, cellphone and mobile data bundles allowances as well as out-of-pocket expenses that were due to councillors must be excluded and not be part of the basic salary when calculating the once-off gratuity.