KZN FINANCE MEC MUST TURN COMMITMENT INTO REALITY

JOHANN KROG, MPP

DA KZN SPOKESPERSON ON FINANCE

EFFECTIVE delivery to the people of KwaZulu-Natal relies on proper control of the province’s finances and resources by its civil servants – the cogs in the wheel of the vehicle that is service delivery.

The acid test As our province gears up for Budget Day on Friday, 9 March, this should be top of mind for KZN Finance MEC, Ina Cronje – and it certainly is a massive responsibility to shoulder. The DA acknowledges the MEC’s ongoing fiscal discipline drive, which has pulled KwaZulu-Natal out of the financial doldrums, brought down over-expenditure and resulted in a financial surplus for KwaZulu-Natal – a remarkable achievement. The real test is whether this fiscal control can be maintained during the forthcoming financial year, how the MEC will structure this year’s budget and whether she will correctly prioritise funding to ensure that service delivery and the development of infrastructure is given precedence. Finding sufficient funding is one thing. Having the capacity to manage efficient, cost-effective delivery is another. Monitoring this delivery and holding those responsible for the delivery accountable is yet a third. The acid test for the DA of the ANC’s political will and commitment to service delivery will be when teachers are actually held accountable for teaching a full day’s work in front of the classroom, every day of every week!

A smaller and smarter public service There is no denying that many of KZN’s provincial government departments are bloated and littered with “dead wood”, leading to a large and unwieldy operation. A smaller and smarter public service is what we need. The Premier’s proposal to employ more public servants including engineers, architects and other skilled professionals within the Public Works department defies logic when it merely duplicates existing administration within many departments. Ineffective administration has already impacted negatively on three critical sectors – housing, health and transport infrastructure. Despite KwaZulu-Natal’s massive backlog in housing delivery, provincial government through the Human Settlement department under spent its conditional grant by R200 million and was obliged to return a portion of this sum. This is indicative of a department that is drastically under-performing. The result is that Gauteng now receives R1 billion per annum more for housing than KZN – at R83 000 per home this equates to more than 10 000 houses. On the health front, conditional grants aimed at hospital revitalization were also returned to National after funds remained unspent. It is also unacceptable that a two month moratorium exists on all transport related building projects in KZN due to the department having run out of funds before the end of the financial year. The delays will incur massive penalties which the provincial government can ill-afford.

Financial Disclosure Many public servants continue to milk the system, lining their own pockets with taxpayers’ money. A third of South Africa’s public sector employees failed to disclose their financial interests to the Public Service Commission (PSC) 2010/2012. The DA-run Western Cape is the only province that achieved 100% compliance with the financial disclosure framework. In 2011, the Committee for Private Members’ Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions rejected a DA legislative proposal, which sought to prevent state employees from improperly profiting from government business on the grounds that similar legislation was pending from national government. In KwaZulu-Natal it appears that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, with Premier Zweli Mkhize having rejected the DA’s proposal of this Bill. The disclosure of financial interests by civil servants is an indispensible tool in the fight against corruption and the DA urges the Premier and his Finance MEC to recognize the importance of such a Bill and to support it.

Real Opportunity But it is not all “doom and gloom” and real opportunity exists within our province. An important move for MEC Cronje will be to follow through on Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s commitment and ensure easier transfer of Ingonyama Trust Land. The reams of red tape must become a thing of the past if we are to envisage our goal of economic opportunity and job creation, particularly within the rural areas of our province. Key areas which the DA expects the MEC tackle as part of her Budget speech include;

– A commitment to ongoing strict controls on expenditure. Less irregular expenditure and tender fraud means more money for infrastructure development

– A work study to scrutinize and revise organograms across all provincial departments to ensure maximum productivity and effectiveness

– A comprehensive and co-ordinated strategic financial plan for provincial government departments, which includes the identification of primary objectives, rather than the current ad hoc expenditure characteristic of many departments

– Specific plans in terms of targets and timeframes from all departments with more precise performance outcomes

– Performance assessments that are placed in context. Targets must be reflected against demand in order to measure the success of any project. Plans to ensure that 182 000 Grade R children are enrolled as part of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme, with a further 184 000 and then 186 000 during the next two financial years are praiseworthy but it we need to know the number of five year olds in KZN who are not yet part of this system in order to monitor real progress.

– Compensation for employees will hinder infrastructure development in KZN if the budgeted 5% increase is exceeded. Cosatu is already calling for ten percent. The MEC must stick to her guns on this one and provincial government must be prepared to implement the no work no pay policy

– Drastic curtailment of imbizo’s and other celebratory functions every time a sod is turned or a new roof goes onto a building. This is all money that must go towards infrastructure development.

– The moratorium on the appointment of new staff must remain in place, with the exception of critical vacancies.

Turning promises into reality

The DA welcomes the MEC’s efforts to clean up KZN’s finances and ensure proper governance. Yet we are told, every year, that each and every rand will be well spent. The DA will hold the MEC to this commitment, which must now become a reality.

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