KZN Budget – Focus must be on areas that improve quality of life and bring opportunity

Johann Krog, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance

The urgent prioritisation of front-line services such as Health, Education and Transport – in particular the state of the province’s roads – must be the focus of KZN Finance MEC Ina Cronje’s budget this week if it is to be a budget for the people. This is a time of global and national belt-tightening, which means we need a no-frills budget which sticks to the priorities needed by KZN and dumps the waste and politically-driven extravagance.

A quality health service, enhanced education system and a road network which encourages economic growth and reduces the number of lives lost are where the province’s most urgent fiscal obligations lie. These are the areas that talk directly to the people, both in terms of quality of life and opportunity.

Spending money wisely is a promise the Finance MEC makes every year. Yet tender fraud and corruption are rampant across every sphere of provincial government while political bigwigs remain unprosecuted. The province’s “crack team” is trying to deal with thousands of failed contracts, yet if SCM and tender procedures were followed there would be no need for such a team.

The MEC needs to take a more aggressive stance, starting with an instruction that Treasury administer the Supply Chain Management (SCM) process across all departments. Tenders must go through this department so that fraudsters can be stopped before they permeate the system.

As the DA, we firmly believe that sweeping changes are needed in order to direct funding towards key delivery areas. Any department, programme or civil service employee that does not add real value must go. In order to do more with less, the province must embark on an aggressive process of fiscal and organisational rationalisation.

We propose the following;

* Amend the mandate of the Office of the Premier so that it focuses only on the implementation of the Provincial Development Plan (PDP). The National Development Plan is a milestone – never before has South Africa had a national plan to which all major parties subscribe. The provincial plan must be executed without delay in KZN

* Curtail expenditure within the Royal Household Trust. This cannot be a “spend as you like” entity. If the current management cannot control expenditure then find people who can.

* As the National Development Plan notes, the key target of land reform must be to address the legacy that has left 30% of South Africa’s most fertile land unproductive, and under tribal tenure. This is why we are calling for urgent reform of the land ownership regime in these areas.

* Priority areas must be properly funded. This means allocating enough money for schools to be properly staffed and hospitals and clinics to be staffed, repaired and maintained. Where it is cost-effective let’s back state-aided institutions as this means lower costs per patient and keeps facilities open.

* Stop employing more legislature staff. A ballooning civil service has drastically reduced infrastructure spend. The KZN development plan cites Education as a priority yet cuts in teacher allocations to schools are affecting standards while other departments are expanding their organograms.

* Do away with expensive jamborees such as Parliament to the People and replace these outings with smaller study tours. Tighten up on travel and subsistence and other claims.

* Apply a radical downsizing policy within the legislature. Restructure top heavy departments and move smaller under-performing departments such as Sport and Recreation, Arts and Culture and Social Development to Education.

* Do away with Public Works in the province. This process is already duplicated within each department. Likewise, close Sports and Recreation and Arts and Culture and re-assign these functions where they belong – to schools and local councils.

* Do away with all government programmes that provide little or no value and spend the money on infrastructure such as maintaining provincial roads. These include Youth Ambassadors and Social Development community workers.

* Rationalise public entities such as RB IDZ, TIK, ADA and the Growth Fund in order to reduce crippling overheads. Every year the Auditor-General finds fault in this area, yet nothing changes.

If implemented, these proposals will begin to address the critical challenges facing KwaZulu-Natal. They will assist in restoring confidence, improving the economy, encouraging investment, boosting economic growth and reducing unemployment.

Consolidation is crucial. Provincial government must cut its cloth accordingly, work smart and offer delivery where it counts.

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