SIZWE MCHUNU, MPP
DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE LEADER IN THE KWAZULU-NATAL LEGISLATURE
Hon. Premier, your State of the province address comes at a time when a large number of our municipalities have failed to achieve clean audits, when people of KZN are still wrestling with issues of corruption and maladministration, and at the time when reports such as the Manase Report have raised alarm bells. Deployment of ANC cadres continues to undermine efficiency and effective operations. It is time to take on people who can do the job well and professionally. The people demand delivery, irrespective of the pigmentation of those that deliver.
The questions that the people of this province want answers to are;
How close is KZN to going the same way as Limpopo? Are we really out of the woods when it comes to financial mismanagement? Or are we heading for the day when central government has to intervene? This is what the people are most concerned about. It is the DA’s view that the Premier did allay some of these fears in his address and we wish to congratulate him on that. What is now needed is a far more aggressive provincial leadership when it comes to accountability and the monitoring and oversight of service delivery projects -“on time and on budget”.
There can be no doubt that the Premier’s strategic plan for the province for the coming year is well-intended. But whether our province’s political leadership or its minions have either the capacity or the political will to implement such a grandiose plan remains to be seen. For too long, these
plans have become part and parcel of the annual State of the Province, announced with much fanfare only to disappear into the annals of history. The Democratic Alliance welcomes the Premier’s acknowledgement of the triple challenge that faces our province – namely poverty, unemployment and inequality. We also welcome the shift towards adopting best international practice which will see greater collaboration between the public and private sectors, in particular the small business sector. We also note that the premier pointed out the increase in the number of jobs that have been created as of December and indeed the contribution by the private sector has to be applauded. The unemployment statistics announced by the Premier are little cause for celebration and there is no indication as to whether these are permanent or temporary Jobs.
The Premier’s stance on the prohibition on staff doing business with government is on-track – but must go further with the introduction of a Bill which eradicates this scourge completely. Preventing officials from tendering for state contracts is being prevented by the inability of the PERSAL data base, controlled within the office of the Premier, to provide real time search capacity. Put simply it is impossible for officials at a de-centralised provincial office somewhere in KZN to check ID numbers on tender documents against the central PERSAL data base. It is disgraceful that in a time of instant web-based access to data bases we still have an employees’ data base which cannot perform such a basic search function in real time and thereby eliminate corruption at its very beginning – the insider bidding for state tenders. The proposal to completely do away with the tender process is a typical ANC response to a problematic issue. Don’t bother to try to fix it – just shut it down completely.
Statues and Museums
Of concern is the Premier’s plan to build museums and erect statues of liberation struggle heroes. The decision to spend taxpayers’ money on items that do not address the well-being of the citizens of our province is questionable.
The DA disputes the figures quoted by the Premier in terms of the Vulindlela Housing Project. The Premier claims that 1 000 homes have been built but we are made to believe that the number of homes that are completed stands at closer to 500.
The 2011 AGSA investigation into infrastructure delivery within Education and Health revealed some shocking statistics of inadequate capacity to monitor projects, waste of resources running into hundreds of millions of rands and delayed delivery to residents of KZN who in some cases are left waiting for years for projects to be completed. A total of 35% of Health projects had contraventions of procurement legislation. One hundred percent of Education projects studied incurred delays and all the schools inspected by the AGSA were found to have poor quality workmanship. The Premier needs to acknowledge the way government is failing the people of KZN when it comes to building schools and hospitals at the right time, to plan, and to budget.
The President has correctly pointed that infrastructure development is important to create jobs. With that comes improved education and skills transfer. In light of the little detail given as to how this will be done the Premier and the KZN Finance MEC need to provide a workable plan. One of the reasons for the neglect of infrastructure is the ballooning cost of employees which is completely out of proportion to the services delivered. Fiscal leakage through fraud has reduced our province’s infrastructure spend. Ineffective Human Settlement and Public Works departments have seen the return of critically needed funds to National Government for hospital revitalisation and housing. This means that Gauteng now has R1billion more per annum over MTEF for housing projects, despite our province having a bigger backlog and the fact that it costs more to build homes in KZN due to typography.
In terms of macro-financial management – there is a lot of good being done in our province relating to budgetary control and clean audit outcomes. The strong commitment to turning local government around is also welcomed but we need to see stronger action in terms of intervention for those
municipalities that are unable to manage their own affairs. The DA is delighted with the Premier’s move towards realizing the potential of location and resources in our province – we whole-heartedly support this initiative. We also believe that the increased KZN capital budget, from R11 billion to R15 billion, is able to bring much-needed relief to key areas, including health and education, if it is spent where it matters. The
structures within education are in place – what we now need is a focus on quality outcomes. It cannot be denied that infrastructure, in particular the supply of basic services such as water and electricity, are key
concerns. But infrastructure development will not create jobs if our province is unable to create an environment where young people can develop skills or, even worse, retain these well qualified individuals. The current dearth of highly qualified health professionals and scarce subject teachers, who
continue to leave the province in their droves, is a case in point. It is absolutely no use having new laboratories and world class hospital facilities when nobody knows how to use them.
Unlike President Jacob Zuma, in his SONA Address, The Premier has recognized that effective classroom learning relies crucially on the professionalism of teachers. We note that he recognizes that there has
been a decline in professional standards and we welcome his commitment to engage anew with Teacher Unions on measures to ensure teacher discipline and integrity.
The DA welcomes the progress in terms of maritime growth. This, we believe, is the result of DA policy input within portfolio committees. This programme needs to bring genuine opportunity and expanded skills – specifically in rural development.
KwaZulu-Natal’s road network also featured prominently in the premier’s address with a big focus on potholes and the plans to patch them. What the Premier failed to mention is that many of our roads are now beyond repair, and will have to be rebuilt completely – leaving the “patch work programme” an exercise in futility. Failure to keep a maintenance schedule over the past 18 years has resulted in our province’s road infrastructure deteriorating to such an extent that many of our roads are irreparable and must now be removed and reconstructed. The cost to the economy for failing to maintain these roads has now borne the inevitable fruits – there is not enough money to reconstruct all the roads that need attention and the roads that are falling into disrepair are now a threat to the safety of road users across the province. The construction that has been done and is in progress has proved to be very expensive with a running kilometre of road costing anything between R6 million and R20 million. The shortsightedness of the ANC’s government since the dawn of democracy has compromised the largest asset this country has – its road network.
The current state of our roads is an indictment against those authorities responsible for ongoing maintenance. In line with our ports and our rail network, our road network remains one of
the key drivers for economic growth in our province – the much-needed solution to address the so-called “Triple Challenge”.
The following highlights the concerns of the Democratic Alliance and the action we wish to see the provincial executive take.
The ANC criticism of tendering – which the Premier failed to quash at the time – gives us a great blue water issue. What the ANC wants is an increased state bureaucracy, which means more jobs for pals, less efficiency, less delivery and at a much greater unit cost. The DA wants genuinely open tendering with proper competition and real value for money. The ANC want Cuba in the 1960s and poverty for all, while we want a globally competitive economy in the 21st century growing at 8%. The problem is corruption in tendering and insider deals with politically connected individuals. The DA solution is more oversight and transparency and total prohibition on public servants or elected officials doing business with the state. Solve the problem!
Getting the thieves convicted and dismissed, as in the case of the sustainable livelihoods scandal within the Department of Social Development, is fine but these criminal acts took place from 1996 to 2008. The MEC at the time is therefore also accountable and must appear before Scopa to explain what he was doing to enforce the PFMA and perform his executive responsibilities during all the years he was political head of the department. The ANC is quick to go after mid-level officials caught with fraud or non-compliance but very shy about going after their own political leadership. This undermines the credibility of the whole anti-corruption campaign in all spheres of government.
Government, it is said, has 2 main responsibilities – to protect the value of the currency and the borders of the state. The KwaZulu-Natal border with Mozambique is in a terrible mess with no fence at all in places. This means that there is no control over the movement of wild animals and livestock and the consequent risk of disease flowing unchecked into the province. Foot and Mouth remains a very real threat to our red meat industry and our ability to export will be cut off again if there is another outbreak of this disease. What is the Premier doing to get proper fencing and patrols of our northern border?
The DA wants to see the following;
– Consolidation and restructuring of departments to follow international best practice. This means shutting down Public Works in the province and making each department responsible for its own infrastructure and maintenance programmes.
– Unite the Health and Social Welfare departments.
– Combine the Education department with Sport & Recreation and Arts and Culture. The administration savings could be put towards infrastructure and other urgent issues including the looming teacher shortage. Currently, 4 1800 new teachers are trained annually, a shortage of 9 000 per annum.
– Take the implementation of austerity measures more seriously with greater emphasis on appointments in critical posts only. A detailed work study is needed to rationalise organograms. The performance bonuses and pay packages of Public Entities also needs to be revisited.
– The previous Judge President committed to disciplinary hearings. To date not one has taken place. Erring officials must be dealt with to set an example.
– All forensic and internal audits must be released if KwaZulu-Natal has any hope of stopping graft. Mr Premier – make the Scopa chair a member of an opposition party if you have nothing to hide.
Economic Development and Tourism
Tourism and Agri-business are the short term drivers of growth and job creation in our province.
Infrastructure in terms of the private sector is in place, with KZN having been marketed as a destination for years. Yet our hotels are under-utilised. It is time for a combined effort, spear-headed by the department which will see all stakeholders form a partnership to market competitive short-term packages which take in the many attractions our province has to offer. This includes our beaches, the berg, word-class sports facilities and game parks. Why isn’t our taxi industry being pulled in to be a part of tourism initiatives which will create jobs overnight?
Ingonyama Trust land – which makes up 43% of KwaZulu-Natal – must become free title and not subject to tribal authority in order to enable free trading in property. Other urgently needed initiatives include large scale farmers mentoring new farmers while rates and service rebates must be given and new SEZ must be started in each district and the Metro.
While NHLS is a good move for our country as a whole, the reality is that KwaZulu-Natal hospitals are nowhere near ready for it. Efficiency and professionalism levels are poor and many of the basics are not in place. Other issues that need attention are the lack of doctors and other highly qualified health professionals. Meanwhile, equipment shortages and a lack of maintenance when it comes to health facilities continue to drive doctors away from our shores. On a positive note, there is an improvement within the department in terms of expenditure.
The rampant fraud and corruption that has infected this department means that it needs to be completely disbanded and realigned. An urgent review of its objectives must then be carried out to determine whether it is still on course. If not then it is back the drawing board.
The legislature continues with its functions of legislating and monitoring the executive. However, the expensive, “nice to haves”, including Taking Parliament to the People continue to diminish government’s ability to deliver on essential services. One of these sessions costs taxpayers in excess of R2.5 million – enough to revamp five to ten schools that are an insult to the children who have to learn in them. Yet millions are spent on this and other sectoral parliaments with no tangible results that indicate this is money well spent. Instead these excursions into the hinterland of the province are blatant ANC canvassing sessions using taxpayers’ money. The extended benefits to members of parliament also detract from the ability and effectiveness of service delivery in the province
Ezemvelo has its hands full dealing with poaching and conserving wildlife in our province. On top of that they are insufficiently funded to develop our green environment and maintain the wonderful resorts and reserves that make KZN a special place in the world. The corruption and connivance within rhino poaching by some Ezemvelo staff is a serious stain on their ability to preserve this unique symbol of South Africa and Africa as a whole.
Against the efforts made to streamline the management structure of the department, the roll-out of teaching and learning material to all schools, the increase in skills training for principals and scarce subject teachers, the drop in matric pass rates for 2011 remind us that our education system in KZN is fundamentally flawed and no matter how energetic and well meaning the initiatives are that were introduced last year until the basic flaws are acknowledged and radically attacked, progress will be small.
The key fundamental flaw in our system is the quality of our educators and principals. There is no doubt that there is also a huge infrastructure backlog that contributes to the malaise, but brand new laboratories are useless if they are staffed by unqualified and unprofessional teachers. There are 1.5 million learners in our schools but at the last count only 457 qualified science teachers. More than half of our teachers are over 50 years old: the maths tells you that in 10 years half of our teachers will retire – some 40 000 in total. At the present rates of teacher training, only 18 000 will enter the profession so we will be short 22 000 teachers. The MEC is fully aware of these figures and there are moves afoot to find solutions, but as is usual in government circles, there seems to be a monumental lack of urgency. Two drastic steps need to be taken immediately;
– Teacher training must be opened up to the private sector
– Scare subject teachers and teachers in deep rural schools need to be paid more.
The firing of the MEC of Public Works was both a reaction to internal political pressures but also a reaction to the MEC’s inability to right the mess in this department. Although the department under MEC Govender’s rule achieved an award for her fight against corruption, there still remain serious questions about the tenders and contract and the general efficiency of their operation. The rates backlog owed to local municipalities has been cleared, but there is still no finality on the assets register and questions around the effective use of leased properties. Most significant is the fact that only about 1/3 of all provincial infrastructure projects are given to Public Works with an increasing number going to other project managers. A lack of capacity and inefficiency in service delivery is at fault here.
Sport and Recreation
It is difficult to assess this department as there is so little that is right about it. There is an inherited dysfunctional management that seems unwilling or unable to address the repeated criticisms from portfolio members, MEC and Scopa. The appointment of a new MEC without a proven track record does not bode well for the future, but perhaps a new broom is needed to sweep clean this unhappy mess.
Urgent intervention, which includes an increased budget, is essential to improvement within this department for progress to take place. The DA also wants to see the following;
– A serious attempt to increase housing delivery and achieve set targets
– Address the numerous stalled housing projects within the province and speed up rectification
– Expedite transfers via the EEDBS (Enhance Extended Discount Benefit Scheme)
– Capacitate municipalities to deliver housing, especially in rural areas
– Allocation Policy formulated to avoid fraud and corruption
– Disaster management funding allocated to this department
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs
– Develop a clear plan to turn around struggling municipalities
– Plan of action to address fraud and corruption
– Address service delivery challenges within municipalities
– Hold municipal managers and senior officials accountable to performance agreements
– Consider the re-alignment of KZN municipalities to make them more viable
– Clear plan of action to ensure councilors and officials do not obtain tenders from municipalities
Arts and Culture
– Libraries must fall under province
– Provision of Mobile Libraries to remote areas
– Partnerships with schools to develop school Libraries.