DA Lifts Lid on R6.6 million Failed Soweto Schools Toilet Project

Khume Ramulifho MPL DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Education During an oversight visit to Soweto schools this morning I was shocked to find that a R6.6 million schools toilets renovations is still incomplete. The DA is in possession of a document indicating that Go-Luthi Constructions and Surveyors was awarded a contract to renovate school toilets for four schools in Soweto. This contract was awarded in May 2012, scheduled for completion on 15 August 2012. The value of this contract is R6 662 344.91 million. However, visits to Phiri Primary School, Reutlwile Junior Secondary School, Nkholi Primary School and Sedibathuto Primary School in Soweto proved shocking as the contractor has left all four sites. Learners have been using four temporary toilets for almost a year. Sedibathuto Primary School has also been left with only one functional tap as the pipes supplying water to the learners was cut by the contractor. It is unacceptable that a contractor escapes punishment from the Gauteng Education Department for being paid a large amount of money and disappearing before the job was complete. The DA question Gauteng Education and Infrastructure Development MECs on the project and to determine on what grounds Go-Luthi was awarded this contract and how much was spent for each school. The DA in Gauteng will request action be taken against the contractor who failed to deliver.

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IPID probes five Centurion cops for alleged rape of domestic violence victim

By Patricia Mokgohlwa MPL DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Women Five police officers are facing a criminal case and are currently being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) for the alleged rape of a woman wishing to report domestic violence the Wierdabrug police station. In response to my question (available here) Gauteng Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros also confirms that the departmental cases have also been instituted against all members who were on duty the night of the incident. The DA welcomes the investigation but is disappointed that none of the police officers being investigated have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation because “no specific suspect has been identified”. The DA believes they are not fit to work with members of the public, and women in particular, until the cloud over their head is cleared. This is not enough. The allegations of rape are incredibly serious, not only because the perpetrators are those we are supposed to entrust with our safety, but also because the woman, in a desperate attempt to seek refuge from domestic violence, was further violated by police officials. The DA hopes that the investigation will be completed speedily and thoroughly, and that the perpetrators are brought to book. The DA also hopes that the provincial police commissioner will dismiss, arrest and prosecute any member found to be linked to the criminal case as indicated in his response.

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MEC must probe R85 million Tshwane housing scandal

Janet Semple MPL DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Housing The DA in Gauteng will request an official investigation into the Saulsville housing development project which is unfit for occupation despite the inflated R85 million price tag. According to the Pretoria News this morning the Tshwane municipality and Gauteng Housing Department spent millions on the block of apartments that do not meet building requirements fit for people to live in. The report also highlights the fact that the municipality and the province paid R817 000 for each unit, which is less than 50m2. This staggering price tag for one house could have bought at least 12 of the 40m2 free standing two bedroom houses being rolled out by the DA-led Midvaal municipality. A total of 1 300 houses could be built with the Midvaal model for the R85 million allocation. This brazen waste of public money and disregard for the serious housing needs of the people of Tshwane must not go unpunished. Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe must investigate the inflated cost price for these houses and the failure to complete the contract to the requirements. The MEC must ensure that the contractors are not just blacklisted but also prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It is time that the City of Tshwane and the Gauteng Housing Department show that they, too, are serious about housing.

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Why is Sanral so stubborn on E-Tolls?

Jack Bloom MPL DA Gauteng Caucus Leader Reports today indicate that the SA National Roads Agency (SANRAL) is not ready to implement e-tolls on Gauteng highways in the face of the expected high level of non-compliance. According to Radio 702’s Eyewitness News and the Daily Maverick, SANRAL has been hit by bad maintenance and faulty equipment. SANRAL has admitted that it is battling to get sub-contractors to do crucial on-going maintenance of equipment. Its Violation Processing Centre has 200 staff members, which according to sources will not be enough to handle a violation rate of more than 60 percent. The question is why SANRAL is so stubborn in pushing ahead with the e-tolls. SANRAL has not been honest about its preparedness to implement the e-tolls. Suspicions are raised about who is benefiting from the e-toll contracts as it is clear that the sensible thing is to scrap these contracts and use the fuel levy to finance the highways.

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Northern Cape Premier’s Inauguration Welcomed

Harold McGluwa, MPL The Democratic Alliance welcomes Sylvia Lucas’s inauguration as Premier of the Northern Cape tomorrow. We can only hope that unlike her predecessors, she succeeds in taking the provincial government forward. Lucas is an old hand at political oversight by way of her having served on legislature portfolio committees for a number of years. She thus has the experience and the insight to fare adequately in her new role. We hope that she directs her focus towards issues that have the ability to change the lives of the people of the Northern Cape for the better, and that she makes use of her limited time wisely.

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Radical Overhaul Needed for KZN’s Teacher Bursary System

Tom Stokes, MPP DA KZN Spokesperson on Education DESPITE the fact that there are presently some 14 000 unqualified teachers employed by KwaZulu-Natal’s education department – and that some 4 500 new teachers are required each year due to death and retirement – 284 out of 1 903 newly qualified teachers who applied for jobs at the start of the current academic year remain unplaced. Even more alarming is that 173 of these unplaced teachers are recipients of bursaries paid from taxpayer’s money. The figures form the basis of a report to members of the KZN Education portfolio committee last week which revealed statistics for applications, placement and non-placement for the different bursaries currently offered in the province; Bursary Applications Placed Unplaced Funza Lushaka 1 009 860 149 KZN Education 93 bursaries offered 69 24 Privately funded students 801 690 111 The Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme is a nationally run programme and KwaZulu-Natal merely identifies candidates, with finances handled at national level. For 2012/13, the Funza Lushaka scheme has been allocated R671.9 million. The KZN bursary funds come from a Ministerial Discretionary Fund and during 2012 the amount allocated was R25million. Further explanations offered by the department’s HOD last week point to a mismatch between the subjects offered by graduates and the subject needs in available vacancies. The HOD further elaborated that part of the problem is that bursary holders, once they attain a bursary to study scarce subjects like science and maths, change their course packages mid-stream to easier subjects not needed by the department. It is quite clear that the present bursary system as well as the education department’s HR division is due for a radical overhaul. The teacher bursary scheme costs the taxpayer millions annually and far more stringent conditions need to be placed on recipients in terms of course packages. The KZN bursary funds come from a Ministerial Discretionary Fund and during 2012 the amount allocated was R25million. The Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme is a nationally run programme and KwaZulu-Natal merely identifies candidates, with finances handled at national level. For 2012/13, the Funza Lushaka scheme has been allocated R671.9 million. In addition there should be far greater monitoring by the department on the progress of these students. It’s unacceptable that the HR department is unable to place every graduate by October of the previous year due to delayed exam results and that students are not given early warning of where they are likely to be posted. More worrying is the clear disjuncture between long term teacher needs and the totally inadequate teacher training capacity of our existing training facilities. The figure of 14 000 unqualified teachers masks an even greater problem in our schools, particularly in smaller rural schools, where teachers qualified in one subject are teaching in another and are sometimes teaching at a grade level for which they are not qualified. At present there is no way of knowing the extent of this problem as the department has no accurate figures of each schools staff qualifications against teaching needs. The Bantu education system of the past has created havoc in our schools, but the lack of urgent initiatives to rectify the situation is deplorable. It appears that too many promotion posts at district and circuit level have been filled by people unable or unwilling to change a system that they are comfortable in, and ruffle the feathers of those teachers presently employed who are inadequate for the job. Like turning the Titanic away from the iceberg in its path, the KwaZulu-Natal education department, steered by complacent managers and fueled by teacher union activism, seems unable to turn away from its current course of complacency and incompetence.

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Massive R1.5 billion unauthorised expenditure bill to hit Gauteng budget surplus

Mike Moriarty MPL DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Finance The Gauteng Finance Department must still account for a massive R1 594 million in spending incurred without proper budget provision or authorisation, according to Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe’s reply to my written question. Gauteng’s budget surplus for the year will therefore not materialise once this amount is brought to account and the hundreds of millions of Rand of old invoices, especially in the Health Department, are paid. This effectively means that R3 billion of this year’s budget cannot be used for service delivery: the public’s money is really gone even before it is received. Some of this unauthorized expenditure is very old, as is the case with R18.375 million in unauthorised expenditure incurred by the former Transport, Roads and Works department in the 2005 / 2006 financial year. The Education Department incurred R13.241 million in 2007 / 2008 that must still be accounted for, while the Auditor-General yet again flagged R247.882 million in unauthorised expenditure by the Transport department in 2008 / 2009. The Department of Education was almost entirely responsible for the outstanding R220.288 million unauthorised expenditure in 2009 / 2010. Unsurprisingly the greatest portion of outstanding amounts that must be authorised is from last year’s annual financial statements. Here the amount outstanding is just over R1 billion. Almost all of this is from the Health Department. The huge bill for unauthorised expenditure clearly shows a pattern of poor financial control and again it is the people of Gauteng that are punished, and not incompetent or dishonest staff. The people of the province, and not departmental officials, suffer because there will be less money available for service delivery than there should be. The DA in Gauteng will continue to ensure that accounting officers and officials are held responsible for financial misconduct in terms of section 81 of the Public Finance Management Act (No 1 of 1999). A DA-led provincial government will ensure honest, open and accountable provincial government and financial management. This would not only lead to better and more effective service delivery, but also an economic environment conducive to economic growth and job creation.

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LIBERALS FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT

By Jack Bloom I was a student when I volunteered to help the Progressive Federal Party in the 1981 general election. The Bezuidenhout parliamentary seat in east Johannesburg was a difficult one for the PFP. In 1977, the National Party came within 50 votes of winning it. It had working and middle class suburbs, and victory depended on getting out the vote from good support areas. Canvassing was door-to-door, which was possible before high walls and security systems became the norm. I went out every night during the week, knocking on doors and speaking to voters. Dogs were sometimes a problem, and I was bitten twice. The reception could be hostile, but at least you knew where they stood. It was better than being strung along by a voter who all along didn’t intend to vote for us. Or people who lied about their support with a smile. The issue of allowing black people into “white” areas was often a tough sell. The PFP believed that the Group Areas Act should go, along with all other discriminatory legislation. I had to reply to questions like: “Do you want a black person living next door?” It was easier to campaign on issues like the cost of living and wasteful government spending. But racial prejudice often meant an automatic vote for the National Party. The PFP won Bezuidenhout in 1981 quite narrowly, aided by a comment by a Nat Minister that pensioners could live on R20 a day. But in the 1987 General Election, the PFP lost several seats, including that of Douglas Gibson in Bezuidenhout. The Nats had posters in bold red saying: “Over my dead body will I vote ANC, so why vote PFP?” A photograph of Helen Suzman with Winnie Mandela was splashed in the pro-Nat press. The caption was Winnie’s statement: “With our matchboxes and our necklaces we will liberate our country.” It was an effective smear campaign that I always recall when the ANC tries to portray the DA as heir to the apartheid government. As one wag said, the racists accused liberals of being communists, now the communists say liberals are racists. In 1989 the PFP became part of the Democratic Party in order to widen white support for the abolition of apartheid. It scored a shock upset by winning a local by-election in the mostly Afrikaner Linden suburb in Johannesburg. This seat was in Pik Botha’s constituency, and showed NP reformers that the white electorate was ready for change. The fall of the Berlin Wall that same year was enormously important in President FW de Klerk’s bold move to engage with the ANC. It’s ironic as the ANC supported the repressive East European communist governments that toppled as their people pushed for freedom. But ANC documents still regurgitate Marxist jargon as if the communist experiment had not failed spectacularly. It was the PFP’s core liberal principles that actually triumphed in South Africa’s negotiated constitution. There were many role-players in South Africa’s transition to a non-racial society. No one party should monopolize the credit, which is a sound basis for creating a better future.

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Provincial agriculture budget fails to mitigate job losses

Dr Allen Grootboom, MPL

DA Northern Cape

The Democratic Alliance in the Northern Cape is satisfied with the budget vote presentation of the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture. This follows a presentation by the department to the relevant legislature committee on Thursday, 25 April 2013.

Although well presented, the department, however, failed to mitigate the potential catastrophic effects of the looming job losses in the agricultural sector through its various programmes. The department has also lost a significant allocation on conditional grants due to high levels of underspending on grants in the previous financial year.

It is disturbing that, while countless jobs in the agriculture sector are under threat, the department continues to have minimal impact by way of facilitating economic growth through creating conditions that are favourable to farmers.

Farmers affected by floods, droughts and veld fires continue to wait for extended periods for adequate support from the department.  A lack of support has also resulted in far too many agricultural projects remaining dependent on government funding for their survival, and are sure to buckle the minute state funding is retracted. In fact, after a number of years, the ongoing Kalahari Kid project is still being fully sustained via the state, this year receiving R2,5 million from the department’s Technology Research and Development programme. These funds merely cover the running costs of the project.

On top of this, the vast majority of EPWP jobs being created in the agricultural sector translate into temporary job opportunities and not permanent employment, except for maybe a handful of jobs in the Warrenton Super Chicken project.

The department has also fared poorly in terms of spending its conditional grants. In the past financial year, the department spent only 43% of its conditional grants. As a result, conditional grants funds for the 2013/2014 financial year have decreased by as much as 10%.  Unspent funds could have been directed towards restoring fences, fixing gravel roads and other initiatives that could lend support to farmers, in turn helping them boost their outputs. Instead, however, the province is now faced with a more limited budget to meets its objectives.

The DA believes that the agricultural sector in the Northern Cape retains its potential to absorb high volumes of labour in the province. However, an urgent review of how the provincial department conducts its business is required in order to ensure that farmers receive adequate support, farm land provides optimal outputs and conditions in the Northern Cape become more favourable towards agri-businesses.

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Mental Hospital funds are drying out

Harold McGluwa, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Chairperson

The Democratic Alliance is deeply concerned by admissions made during today’s budget vote presentation by the Northern Cape Department of Health that the funds for the highly controversial and long overdue mental hospital are drying out. This is in spite of the department maintaining that the hospital will be completed in 2014.

It is apparent from the Provincial Medium Term Expenditure Framework, as well as the department’s Annual Performance Plan, that zero funding has been allocated to the mental health hospital for the 2013/2014 financial year. Furthermore, also according to the APP, the mental health hospital is currently only 63% complete, leaving 37% of the project still to go.

MEC Mxolisa Sokatsha acknowledged during the meeting that costs for the construction of the facility had “doubled, if not tripled”.  He also said that the department is struggling to get funds to finish building this hospital and that a lack of money for the project is a concern, especially as a large amount of funds are now going towards the construction of the De Aar hospital. At the same time, however, he said the target for completion remained 2014.

It is no wonder that acting Premier, Grizelda Cjiekella, steered clear of any mention of this hospital during her state of the province address. It is becoming evident that the number of embarrassments caused by this project will only continue to grow. Perhaps if the department had been more resourceful in spending its infrastructure grant in the 2012/2013 financial year, their conditional grant allocation for this financial year would not have been so significantly reduced.

The DA thinks it is high time that the National Department of Health intervenes. Considering all the money already spent on the mental hospital, it would be a sin to let the establishment once again stand incomplete, vacant and unused. The people of the Northern Cape desperately need comprehensive mental health services. Surely they don’t deserve to wait another unknown number of years for this to materialize.

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