No vision. Only the will to power

Peter Frewen MPL

DA Spokesperson for Finance

Note: the following speech was delivered during an open debate at a sitting of the Free State Legislature today (Thursday 14 March 2013) in Bloemfontein

Deputy Speaker,

Last year I said that we had to get forget about the airy fairy pie in the sky dreams because tighter budget constraints were on the way.

Well this year the reality has hit, but still there are some airy fairy pie in the sky dreams that must come to an end.

The Free State is receiving an ever smaller proportion of the national budget due mainly to the decline in the Free State population – and you may as well ask why?

The reason is there is no employment for people in the Free State so people move to where there is employment. The unemployment rate in the Free State is now at 33.2% – the highest in the country and the only province to have an unemployment rate of over 30%.

Want to blame somebody? Blame the ANC government – the buck stops with them!

There has been no vision for growth – the aim has been and is to remain in power.

Deputy Speaker.

The Legislature, whose function it is to play oversight – *suig aan die agterspeen [eng: is being neglected] – when it comes to being allocated funds from the budget.

It is not one of the functions of the Speaker to go cap in hand to the Executive Committee and ask for sufficient funds for the Legislature.

The Legislature should be allocated sufficient funds to be able to function effectively.

At the same time – the building of the new Legislature should be put on hold until the economy has recovered.

The Fourth Raadzaal has been repaired and I welcome the fact that the decision has been taken to make use of the ample office space here in this complex.

Deputy Speaker, if the Honourable Premier was serious about governing this province he would strive for, and I quote the recent MEC for Treasury; “clean, responsive, accountable, effective and efficient governance” – but I don’t see those goals in your vision – since you became Premier accountably has disappeared.

In the four years that you have been premier you have only attended a Public Accounts and Finance Committee meeting once – and the majority of your MEC’s have followed suite.

The only ones that do attend are those that know what is going on in their departments and are not afraid of the questions asked by the committee. My thanks to those MEC’s that attend PROPAC and Finance Committee meetings – next year I think I should name and shame those that do not attend meetings regularly.

On accountability – the reports on Nala, Ramathe Fivaz (Matjhabeng), Setsoto and Mohokare are still not available. This after the HOD of COGTA assured me the other day that the Nala report was available – I have still not received a copy.

I believe the Ramathe Fivaz report was handed over to the HOD this week – question is – when will we receive it?

Deputy Speaker – where can we save money in this budget?

Firstly, the whole communication strategy saga, be it the website, newspapers or tv – it is now fairly obvious to everybody that the amounts paid for this venture are totally ridiculous.

We welcome the fact that National Treasury launched an investigation into this matter but the problem is that all that money is spent and gone – given to a few select people.

Hon Premier you need to account to the Legislature in full as the DG said she would – no more ducking and diving!

The matter of CDW’s or as I like to call them – Comrade Development Workers.

These people cost R54 million a year and what function do they perform? DA ward councillors never see these people so are these people worth the R54 million plus other costs which are spent on them every year? I doubt it very much – this is not value for money! If the ANC want them then the ANC should pay for them!

The splitting of the department of Local Government into COGTA and Human Settlements should be reversed – this split will cost R73 million a year. It is not too late because there are still not enough funds available to complete the split and the majority of staff is still used for both departments.

The splitting of the department of Agriculture and Rural Development will cost an additional R30 million a year. Once again – this can be stopped and a saving made. There is no need to create more HODs’, CFOs’ and other senior highly paid staff, we need to be saving money, not spending more.

The Free State Tourism Authority – what is this? What does it do? Has it achieved anything? The one thing that is has achieved – is to waste money! It gave the former CFO a golden handshake of R1,8 million then re-employed him a few months later at a salary of R1,1 million a year.

It gave Mr Bobby Hartslief – who owes this province R500,000 – an amount of R4,5 million to virtually spend as he pleases – Mr Hartslief has still not being able to account for this money! It sent four people to the Olympic Games at a cost of R917,934.00 to do what? It has paid R4,2 million over for the Mangaung International Soccer tournament which has not taken place and probably never will.

The Finance Committee has still not received reports from this entity on these matters as requested. So much for accountability! This entity should just be included in the department and Board fees of a million rand a year plus the excessive salary paid to the CEO (R1,8million) and CFO (R1,1million) could be saved.

National Treasury allocated an additional R525 million to road maintenance but the Executive Committee saw fit to take R188 million of this and give it to other departments – so what the government is telling us is that roads are still not a big priority or, that this department would not have been able to spend this money!

If so – this is very worrying – that our biggest infrastructure spending department is incapable of planning and spending in line with planning. This year’s budget for roads will still not bring the Free State roads into any reasonable state. Public Works – this department will have to shape up. With new regulations that provinces must present plans to Treasury two years in advance to secure funds for infrastructure, this department will have improve dramatically otherwise the Free State will lose out to other provinces.

The Department of Health faces very serious cash flow problems. The fact that this budget only increased by 1,75% over last year means that it will not even be able to cover a 5% increase in compensation. This department will have to implement serious cost cutting measures from day one of the financial year.

The Department of Education budget increases by a mere 0,2% over last year. Once again, if compensation increases by just 5%, then this department has to find R500 million in its current budget to cover these additional costs. In addition to this it carries an over expenditure of R320 million from the last financial year which must be paid for out of this budget.

It is rather surprising that the two major service delivery departments in the Free State received the smallest increase in their budget allocations and the Legislature which must play oversight got less but the office of the Premier looked after himself.

The ANC will have to take the full responsibility for the lack of service delivery if these two departments – Health and Education – fail to deliver services.

In closing, we will be spending R2,9 billion on infrastructure and another R1,1 billion on housing – a total of R4,0 billion – as the national Finance Minister asked – will we get enough bang for our buck?

Under this ANC government – I doubt it!

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