Andrew Louw, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Provincial Leader
The glaring absence of the political and administrative leadership of the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism at last week’s legislature portfolio committee meeting, at which the Northern Cape Economic Development Agency (NCEDA) presented its annual report, is deeply concerning and speaks volumes about provincial government’s lax attitude towards attracting and retaining investment in the province.
NCEDA is a small agency, with a small budget that is not nearly sufficient enough to make a tangible difference to the province’s economic situation. At the same time, despite its small budget, NCEDA is fairing dismally in its financial administration, which saw the agency under spending by almost R5 million. This totals almost half of the funds transferred to the agency by the Department of Economic Development. As a result, it is no wonder that not a single one of the agency’s current projects is yet at full implementation phase, despite the agency having been in operation for almost three years.
In all fairness, however, NCEDA’s problems cannot be blamed on the board alone. The agency is a product of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, which appears to be treating the agency as a dumping ground. This came to light after it was yesterday established that the controversial Mita Seperepere Convention Centre, for which not a single department wanted to claim responsibility last year during the annual report presentations, was at number 99 placed in the agency’s hold. On top of this, the department’s afore mentioned under spending and irregular expenditure to the value of almost R3 million, can be indirectly attributed to their having to take control of this convention centre. The agency is further sitting with a number of old and previously failed projects, such as Riemvasmaak, which has been under administration by the Master of the High Court since last year already.
How does this government hope to contribute to economic growth if they fail to prioritize the very agency that has been established to do just this? At this stage, it would seem that the rationale behind establishing this agency was more about creating opportunities for ANC cadres, rather than creating opportunities for economic growth.
If the department doesn’t want to end up with egg on its face, then it had better come to the party soon. We all know of the myriad of problems facing businesses, entrepreneurs and investors, such as red tape, water cuts, increasing electricity tariffs and potholed roads, which are chasing economic opportunities to other better equipped provinces.
The Northern Cape can ill afford to lose another single economic opportunity. It’s about time that the department strips NCEDA of a number of its historically inherited troubles, and rather equips it with the skills, resources and support required in order to transform the Northern Cape to a business friendly environment. Alternatively, they should just close down the agency before even more money is wasted on little more than salaries and overseas trips.
A well-run and well supported agency could go a long way towards changing the face of the Northern Cape. Whether or not the department decides to show up at the next NCEDA portfolio committee meeting will, however, give us an indication of the fate of this agency and the fate of economic growth in the province.