Ithala set to remain a risk

Johann Krog, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Economic Affairs and Tourism

The Democratic Alliance has today called on KZN ECOD MEC, Mike Mabuyakhulu to ensure that adequate recapitalisation, in line with the Banking Act, is put in place to safeguard ordinary citizens with either loans or deposits with Ithala.

Amendments to the Ithala Act were today passed by a majority vote within the provincial legislature. The changes mean that that any person with an interest may bring an application of liquidation against Ithala and that this is no longer the sole preserve of provincial and national government.

The MEC received a directive from the then Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel 10 years ago, requesting that the amendment be made. The matter has dragged on so long that today’s sitting is a crisis step to prevent Ithala from ceasing to operate. The MEC has dragged his heels abominably. There is no reason why the matter could not have been addressed within the normal legislative programme within the past five years since the MEC took over. He has failed to accept responsibility for this task but has had the grace to apologise for this oversight.

The DA will request that the Auditor-General investigate whether convening a special sitting of parliament today was fruitless expenditure and whether the MEC is responsible for the costs thereof.

With the national treasury now released from securing Ithala, it is even more important to recapitalise and restructure the entity. Ithala remains a concern. At the recent public hearings people were heard asking whether their deposits were safe. The DA believes that their concerns are warranted. Ithala is written off approximately R300 million in the recent financial year and has previously written off R300 million in bad debt. It received a qualified audit from the A-G. Its IT systems are in disarray. Its SCM systems are questionable. Rumours that the President’s son is being sued for breach of payment on a R5.5million loan also require investigation. It is pertinent that all loans to politicians are disclosed to the ECOD portfolio committee within the province.

Proper security needs to be obtained for loans and the liquidity of Ithala must be increased. These are urgent matters that the MEC must address.

Opposition parties to be “disciplined” for walking out on Limpopo Unauthorised Expenditure Bill

Desiree van der Walt MPL

DA Limpopo Legislature Caucus Leader

Limpopo legislature Speaker Rudolph Phala today used draconian measures to suppress opposition parties’ rejection of the Limpopo Unauthorised Expenditure Bill.

The Bill is designed to condone government waste of over R1.4 billion over the last three years.

DA and COPE members who have been opposing the Bill will face disciplinary action from the Speaker for a walk-out staged during the first round of voting last week. Phala also denied the DA’s call for a division on the Bill this morning.

It is now put beyond doubt that the ruling party does not care about improving financial management in this province. All they care about is about enriching their cronies.

The Speaker did not give any tangible reason except to say he is punishing the DA and COPE for staging the recent walk-out. His only reason is that the rules of the house give him the discretion to refuse a division on the Bill.

But that cannot be an unfettered discretion. Particularly, when there were six members of the House supporting the call for a division. The speaker’s discretion should be based on valid grounds and not as a way of punishing the opposition for exercising its democratic rights under the Constitution.

The DA is currently seeking a legal opinion on this as it is clearly a violation of the spirit of our constitutional order.

Advertising Standards Authority must protect consumers and not play politics

Annette Lovemore MP

DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education

The DA will today lodge formal appeals against the decisions by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to not investigate two complaints lodged by the DA against misleading advertising blitzes by the Basic Education Department (DBE) regarding the Limpopo textbook saga and government’s progress in eliminating mud schools.

The ASA is supposed to be “an independent body” set up to “ensure that its system of self-regulation works in the public interest”.

These decisions, however, seem to continue the current trend of various institutions shielding the government and ANC from oversight.

The ASA indicated that it will not investigate the Limpopo textbooks ads on the grounds that it deemed the publication as a statement and not an advert because the advert used the wording “A statement by the Department of Education”.

We will appeal the Directorate decision on the following grounds:

* The DBE itself acknowledged in parliamentary questions that the publications were advertisements stating “the advertisements were placed in all the major newspapers’; * The newspaper space was paid for by the DBE and it was not an editorial; * The text clearly falls within the definition of ‘advertisement’ in terms of Section I (4.1) of the ASA Code with it being a visual communication used to promote their service with regard to textbook delivery and explicitly appealed for ‘support from members of society, including section 27, and its allies’

The refusal to investigate the mud school campaign was based on similarly shaky principles.

ASA indicated that: “Your organisation is an opposition to the ruling party and it is complaining about the Department which is governed by the same ruling party shows an interest of some sort. In light of this, your complaint cannot be considered as a consumer complaint as it appears that you might have a political interest in the matter which makes it a political complaint”.

We will appeal this decision on the following grounds:

* A rejection of the Directorate’s baseless and ironically politically loaded assumption that the complaint registered was a political complaint. The DA laid a formal complaint to the ASA in the public interest based on merit and substance, as articulated and substantiated in the founding complaint. * The weak and vague assumption by the Directorate that conflates party and government denies the basic principle of the separation of powers which must distinguish a political party (the ANC) from government (the DBE). * The complaint falls within the definition of “consumer complaint” as outlined in section i (4.14) of the ASA code, which states that “consumer complaints” mean “complaints lodged by members of the public or by entities or organizations regarding consumer related matters, concerning compliance with the Code by an advertisement or advertiser”.

The DA will appeal these decisions to the Advertising Standards Committee and request that the decision to not proceed with the investigation be overturned and that an investigation proceeds.

We believe that the DBE’s advertisements were misleading. The ASA has a duty to protect consumers and the public from being misled – it is not its duty to shield government from oversight.

EC DoH’s false EMS payment promises will cost lives again

John Cupido MPL

Shadow MEC for Health

The Eastern Cape Department of Health (EC DoH) is again playing with the lives of thousands of patients as they yet again fail to stick to recent payment promises made to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff. Clear payment time lines must be made and strictly adhered to.

In a notice sent to all EMS Metro Heads and signed on 3 December by Mr. Ntsoane as the Senior Manager of IHRM, it states that by no later than 5 December 2012, the first of three categories of outstanding payments will be made to EMS staff throughout the province. The promises made by the department of these dates and categories were the sole reason most of the striking paramedics and other EMS staff returned to work.

The first category that was due to be paid before 5 December included certain PDMS payments, excess hours payments, leave gratuity payments and acting allowances.

It has been reported to the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the EC DoH has yet again failed to stick to the promises made and as such the EMS staff are on a Go-Slow.

EMS phones are not being answered and critical patients are not being transferred to hospitals. It is exceptionally wrong that any emergency services staff chooses to strike in the first place, but what is a bigger sin is for the MEC of Health and the department to make specific promises and not keeping to them, knowing that EMS staff will strike again, knowing that they will be risking lives.

The MEC and department must stick to their promises made and ensure that who needs to be paid their dues receive them when promised. In not doing so, it is undeniable that the blood of the patients lost and unnecessary complications of illnesses and ailments because of lack of paramedic services will be on their hands.

Outside expertise needed to save Gauteng Health Dept

Mike Moriarty MPL

DA Gauteng Finance Spokesperson

The DA in Gauteng calls on Premier Nomvula Mokonyane to bring in outside expertise to save the finances of the provincial Health Department. The provincial government must call in major private health care companies and solicit proposals for a Management Contract.

The DA believes that the radical problems experienced by Gauteng Health finances need radical solutions. The provincial treasury and its employees have no experience of hospital finance or administration.

The services rendered under the Management Contract should include:

* Coordinating the admin across these hospitals;

* Providing the first three layers of Management;

* Managing all other staff and systems for the next five years;

* Identifying individuals to retain to take over in five years’ time; and

* Identifying and rooting out incompetence and corruption.

The successful bidder should be appointed to administer this contract for Gauteng’s four biggest health spenders: Dr George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Charlotte Maxeke and Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospitals.

The provincial government has thrashed about for many years groping for solutions to the problems in the administration of its Health department. The Premier yesterday showed that she finally understands that you can’t give the job of fixing a broken system to the people who broke it.

The Premier must now demonstrate her commitment to this understanding by bringing in the necessary outside expertise to save the Gauteng Health Department and its finances.

North West Provincial Legislator MEC’s fail to attend urgent meeting of the Provincial Public Accounts Committee

John Franzsen MPL

Dep. Spokesperson – Provincial Public Accounts

After a damning report appeared in the New Age on 5 December 2012, under the heading “R13m spent on legal fees”, regarding the disciplinary hearing case involving, amongst others, the suspended head of the Provincial Department of Finance, the Public Accounts Committee invited the current MEC Finance Sebegoe and his predecessor, MEC Mabe (now MEC for Education), to brief the Committee on the facts as contained in the New Age article.

It is noted that neither MEC disputed the facts as reported in the New Age article but rather choose to pass the responsibility on to each other, none taking responsibility for the high expenditure, which is still on-going and grossly over budgeted allowance.

After receiving the apologies of the two MEC’s, the Committee rejected the apologies taking a very serious view on their non-attendance to appear.

It was clear to the Committee that neither MEC had the will to take responsibility for this issue, were thus not fit to handle the finances of the Province and showed disrespect to the Committee and thus the Legislator.

The Committee decided to escalate the issue as a matter of urgency to the office of the Premier and the Speaker of the North West Province and to institute its own full investigation.

The DA will follow the proceedings in detail and ensure that the full facts, investigations and any actions flowing therefrom will be made public.

Thandi Modise International Airport just as ludicrous as the Lucas Mangope International Airport

Chris Hattingh MPL

Provincial Leader Democratic Alliance North-West

The NWPG’s latest attempt to divert attention from its failing delivery and governance struggle, the announcement of an R50million upgrade to the “Mafikeng International Airport” can only be described as a sick joke. The Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport’s involvement in the airport upgrading is ridiculous – it failed to maintain NW roads and even had to abdicate its infrastructure responsibility on roads to SANRAL.

The NWPG’s capacity to do meaningful capital work, based on clean tender and procurement processes has become seriously restricted.

It appears that even after 13 years of promises of sustainable scheduled flights, massive capital investment – including the creation of 28000 jobs by 2008!, the airport is still being used as a tool in attempts to boost the tainted delivery image of the NWPG.

The reality is that

* R100s of millions had been spent at the airport and surrounding infrastructure during the past decade * The NWPG transferred the airports international license to Pilanesberg and has been trying for years to get it back * The airport was stripped of basic equipment such as fire tenders and other vehicles * The airport buildings were rarely used since the previous upgrade and has again become dilapidated * The previous R1million a month payment to Airlink to have scheduled services was fruitless expenditure with no results to be shown to the taxpayer. * The airport classification was progressively cascaded down with its demise and has now the same status as an airstrip.

It is clear that Premier Modise and the failing MEC of Public Works, Roads and Transport, Raymond Elisha, is on an image building media campaign repeatedly failed propaganda. Whether the NW and Mafikeng people will be fooled once again remains to be seen.

Public Protector must investigate MEC’s ethics violations

Sizwe Mchunu, MPP

Leader of the DA in the KZN Legislature

A dossier of ethics violations by KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo has been submitted to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela by the Democratic Alliance this morning.

MEC Dhlomo clearly violated the Executive Ethics Code in his use of Durban’s only medical helicopter to make a 750km round-trip to a funeral in Hlabisa in 3 November.

Any number of medical emergencies could have occurred in Ethekwini metro and surrounds on that day that required the use of the medical helicopter.

The Health MEC knowingly shrugged off all the deaths and lifetime’s worth of damage to Durban families he could potentially have caused by taking that medical helicopter. He has failed to provide an acceptable explanation for this abuse of office.

In a letter to the Public Protector, the DA argues that MEC Dhlomo –

· Undermined good governance by unjustifiably leaving one of South Africa’s largest metros without air emergency services

· Wilfully misled the KZN legislature with apparent factually incorrect information on the use of the helicopter

· Acted without integrity by not releasing the full information on the flight and apparently violating several aspects of civil aviation law

· Incurred potential conflicts of interests by visiting Hlabisa for political and not official reasons.

The Protector’s Ethics investigations normally take 30 days to complete according to the Executive Ethics Act.

The DA trusts that Ms Madonsela will come to a conclusive finding on whether MEC Dhlomo wilfully endangered the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal for selfish reasons.

DA urges commissioner to save Tholeni SAPS mobile unit

Veliswa Mvenya MPL

DA Member of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature and Provincial Spokesperson

The SAPS mobile unit which was used at Tholeni village, known as the “village of death” has been removed.

The DA is attempting to save the SAPS mobile unit in Tholeni from being shut down after just six months since it was erected. This has come as a big shock to the DA considering the number of murders that took place in this area.

The station was equipped with two police officers and two patrolling vans. It had been a source of relief after 24 women and children had been hacked to death in Tholeni since 2007.

I will write a letter to the Eastern Cape Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Celiwe Cynthia Binta, urging her to keep the unit in the village, considering the violence in the area.

The residents were not informed of the decision to remove the unit and questions from the villagers were not answered. The unit was supposed to be a permanent fixture in the village but after six months the structure has been removed.

The police stated that the removal of the unit is due to the fact that the suspect was apprehended and arrested. However residents do not believe they are secure.

In 2010 a similar unit was placed in the village when it was removed more murders took place. I have also in the past written to the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to look into the matter, to no avail.

The DA believes that communities should always feel safe in their areas of residence. Considering the level of violence in this area the removal of this unit is unacceptable.

It is ironic that during 16 days of activism against woman and child abuse, such a measure which acts to the detriment of women and children was taken.

576 KwaZulu-Natal schools don’t have principals

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

KwaZulu-Natal currently has 576 schools without principals – some 10% of the total number of schools in the province.

The figures form part of a parliamentary reply by the provincial education department to questions posed by the DA.

The unacceptable delay in filling these posts points to serious mismanagement. It is also indicative of a complete lack of urgency and zeal within the provincial education department’s Human Resources department.

Principals play a crucial role in the functioning of schools and there is a high correlation between effective school management and academic results. Their retirement or resignation does not happen overnight. It should therefore not be difficult to manage the transition to a new school principal in an orderly and timeous manner. There should, in fact, be no hiatus in school management – before a principal leaves his or her post, a new principal should already have been appointed enabling a seamless transition of leadership.

Regrettably, the KZN education department’s HR section appears to lack the management and leadership skills at top levels to fix these obvious problems.

The DA calls on the provincial education management to ensure that the HR division composes a clear promotion/retirement succession plan, to be implemented across the province. Private sector is familiar with succession planning for senior management and best practice here must be applied to the public service.