Andrew Louw MPL
Democratic Alliance Northern Cape Spokesperson for Transport, Safety & Liaison
Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable Members of the House, guests in the gallery, members of the media
The Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison regressed from a financially unqualified AG report with findings in the 2009/2010 financial year to a qualified audit opinion in the 2010/2011 financial year. It is thus cause for concern that leadership in the province did not set the right tone at the top by impressing on staff the importance of quality, accurate and complete financial and performance reporting. As a result, we have lost confidence in this department and are looking more sceptically at the department’s budget, plans and targeted outputs for the 2012/2013 financial year.
Before commenting on programme allocations, I think it apt to first highlight some critical financial management issues because if these matters are not quickly resolved, then it will be unlikely that we can expect more from the department in terms of its actual mandates.
This department had findings on capital assets, current assets, liabilities, other disclosures and last but not least, revenue. With regards to revenue, it must be highlighted that this department, specifically in respect of motor vehicle license fees, is one of three major revenue generating departments in the province, contributing 59% of the total provincial revenue, totalling over R100 million on an annual basis.
With financial resources stretched to the maximum over the entire country, the Northern Cape cannot afford to lose even a cent when it comes to revenue collection. This said, we expect from this department to give urgent attention to ensuring that urgent corrections are made regarding all of the AG’s findings, and that all SCOPA and committee recommendations are implemented as a matter of urgency. This will go a long way towards restoring some faith in this department.
On the programme side, the Democratic Alliance is concerned that the allocation for Social Crime Prevention is worryingly low, at only R3,659 million. This is especially troubling when taking into consideration the following findings of a parliamentary report on provincial crime ratios between the 2006/2007 financial year and the 2010/2011 financial year:
• There was a 5.2% increase in all sexual offences cases in the province and the Northern Cape has one of the three highest sexual offence ratios in the country.
• The highest incidence of attempted murder during 2010/2011 was recorded in the Northern Cape.
• Figures for Assault GBH in the Northern Cape are the highest by far, and more than twice the national average.
• Drug related crimes remain a problem in nearly all provinces. The Northern Cape experienced a 6% increase over the last financial year and a general upward trend over the five year period.
• The province also has one of the highest ratios for stock theft in the country.
Hon. Speaker, there is a portfolio committee meeting at the legislature tomorrow, whereby the Department of Social Development is due to address members on the elusive Anti-Rape strategy. We had hoped that relevant departments, including the Department of Safety, whom we would assume is a key partner in this initiative, would by now have budgeted for the eventual implementation of this strategy. The department, however, has been silent on this matter. We hope that this is not a sign of further delays in actually getting this critical strategy off the ground – remember, just one rape, is one too many.
Hon. Speaker, we are aware that there exists no one-size fits all approach to crime and that’s why our Constitution specifically allows for differing policing policies for different provinces. Given the Northern Cape’s current problem areas, as listed above, the DA is of the view that the department needs to improve the way in which it identifies the policing needs and priorities of our communities.
This can be done by expanding the scope of research and perception surveys to include facts and figures about the performance of the police. The Constitution states that we are entitled to independently check whether the police service conducts itself appropriately, that the SAPS is accountable for how resources are used and that we monitor whether police are complying with standing orders and procedures. This will in turn help the department detect patterns and practices of police conduct, identifying systemic problems and making recommendations on how best to improve policing in the province.
The department must also refine the way in which its research is conducted, so that a transversal provincial safety research agenda can be developed. The research agenda could then identify key research areas in order to be able to direct the department’s limited research to where they are most needed. At the same time, previous research studies on crime, done by this and other departments, must be reviewed in consultation with all stakeholders.
The above proposals are important, if the department is to be able to properly explain why they believe the Northern Cape has such high ratios when it comes to sexual offences and assault GBH and whether they have effective strategies in place to deal with these issues?
On the transport front, the DA would like to take a moment to congratulate the department on a job well done in terms of stopping and checking buses on our provincial roads. The visibility of our traffic officers in this regard has been noteworthy and the DA wishes to encourage you to keep up the good work. In fact, we would encourage you to take even stronger action against those not complying with laws pertaining to public transport.
Hon. Speaker, it is good that road safety remains a priority for this department. In this regard, however, I wish to refer back to what I previously said in terms of an increase in drug related crimes. We know that motorists are screened for driving under the influence of alcohol and that there have been numerous arrests in this regard. We would, however, like to propose that the department takes note on what the Western Cape is doing, and take things a step further. Through its “Safely Home” campaign and through partnerships with the private sector, names of the most recently convicted drivers sentenced in Western Cape criminal courts, whose names have been handed to the provincial Transport Department for capture on the electronic eNatis database, are published in a provincial newspaper. As a result, there has been a 14% reduction in road deaths and an ever-falling number of arrests for drunken driving in the province. Hon. Speaker, why not look at doing the same here?
In fact, the Western Cape has other initiatives that we can learn from as well. These include the Average Speed Over Distance project, which calculates the average speed of a vehicle from the time it passes the first camera until it passes the second camera, and then determines if the person was speeding. This project could be implemented on one of the Northern Cape’s many boring, straight roads, where drivers tend to accelerate without even realising it. Since the start of this project in the Western Cape, there have been zero road fatalities on the Beaufort West and Aberdeen Road, where the project was piloted.
In closing, I would like to broach a slightly more ominous topic, which I also happened to raise during the portfolio committee meeting when the department presented its budget to us. Hon. Speaker, it has come to my attention that there are high profile individuals who are manipulating the law in their favour. I have evidence to the effect of summonses for traffic offences for one such individual, whom I have no doubt knows who I am referring to. I want to know why such summonses aren’t being executed when the offender happens to be a big shot? No one, Hon. Speaker, is above the law. In this regard, I call on the department to implement better oversight measures to be able to ensure that people do not, through the abuse of power, escape the wrath of the law.