Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Caucus Leader
Women and children are the most vulnerable members of society. They should receive a high priority in government programmes. But does this mean that they would be best assisted by a specific ministry?
President Jacob Zuma set up a whole new department called Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities. It’s a case study of waste and incompetence that has helped very few women and children. The first minister in this department, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya feuded with officials and achieved virtually nothing. She was booted out after less than 18 months and replaced by Lulu Xingwana.
Xingwana has become notorious for attending overseas conferences at great expense. She flew to New York in 2011 at a cost of R6.8 million, saying that she and her staff could not be expected to fly “lala-class” (economy) or stay in a “pondok”. According to reports, she spent R2.1 million on new furniture for her head office.
This department has cost about R500 million in total since its formation.
Just think how this huge amount of money could have directly assisted vulnerable women and children.
But the waste will continue because bureaucracy is in place and people will defend their jobs. The cynical view is that departments like this are part of the giant patronage machine of ANC rule. It’s jobs for pals and a nice gravy train, while claiming to advance a worthy cause.
The same goes for the National Youth Development Agency. Only 40% of its R376 million budget was spent on direct projects for young people, and 42% on inflated salaries for the agency’s 387 staff members. If this money was allocated to implementing a Youth Wage Subsidy, more than 10 000 job opportunities could have been created
The one new department I am in favour of is one that would rigorously examine the real need for every government agency or programme. Duplications and unnecessary bureaucracy would be eradicated. Lean and effective government should be the aim so that as much as possible benefits those most in need. Any new legislation should have a Regulatory Impact Assessment that weighs up costs, benefits and risks to see if it is really worthwhile. The role of government is not to deliver, but to ensure that delivery takes place as cost-effectively and as efficiently as possible. So if competing private suppliers can do it more efficiently and cost-effectively, that is the way to go.
Another worthwhile special unit is one that systematically reduces all red tape that hobbles businesses. The DA-run Western Cape provincial government has a Red Tape to Red Carpet Programme. It includes a call centre that businesses can contact to ease their way through bureaucratic procedures.
The DA will be introducing this year a Red Tape Reduction Bill in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. While Gauteng’s provincial government preaches the need to cut red tape, it will be interesting if they accept this DA initiative. All areas of government should self-scrutinise to see whether less can actually be more. The balance will lie between as much government as necessary, and as little government as possible.