Taaiboschdraai – John Block looting continues

Patricia O’Neill-Coutts

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture

The agriculture department’s silence on the status of the state owned game farm of Taaiboschdraai which, at last given update, was being “rented out” to none other than MEC of Economic Development, John Block, is highly questionable.

Repeated questions about the game farm fell on deaf ears during today’s annual report meeting at the legislature. The opposition’s questions regarding the use of the game farm were simply dismissed as political rhetoric, instead of being treated with the seriousness they deserve.

The only submission that the DA can make is that irregularities pertaining to the use of this game farm continue to exist.

In 2010, it emerged that Block was benefitting from the state owned game farm at no cost to himself. It later also came to light that the provincial government spent R5 million on putting up fencing and on renovations to the farm house.

Block is a public representative and may not draw such benefits from state owned property. Also, the rightful beneficiaries to this farm are struggling emerging farmers in the area between Hopetown and Petrusville, and not the already wealthy John Block.

It is disturbing that Block appears to have the blessing of provincial government to continue eliciting personal gain from state resources.

The DA believes that it is high time that the full extent of the Taaiboschdraai scandal is exposed. In 2011, we reported the matter to the Office of the Public Protector. We will now follow-up with this office to request the speedy finalization of the outcome of this very important investigation.

It is corruption like this, that robs the people of the Northern Cape of real opportunity!

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Agriculture chooses “pretty paper” over starving cattle

Patricia O’Neill-Coutts

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture

The Democratic Alliance is outraged at  the agriculture department for prioritizing the printing of its annual reports over providing assistance to starving livestock in drought ridden areas of the province.

It emerged during today’s annual report presentation at the legislature that the department has in fact spent approximately R500 000 on the printing of about 500 annual reports. The reports were fancily printed, with glossy hard covers, and effectively cost close on R1000 per report.

At the same time, the department’s HOD today confirmed that approximately R90 million per month is needed for drought relief for at least the next four months, or perhaps even longer depending on when sufficient rainfall will come.

Clearly this department has lost the plot. They see fit to squander limited funds on the printing of a document, which could simply have been photocopied on departmental machines, while neglecting their core duty of securing a vibrant agricultural sector. Had they acted wisely, they could instead have procured approximately 250 tons of lucerne for the cost of the book.

This behaviour is unacceptable.

Serious drought conditions in the province were already highlighted in April this year. But now, six months later, the drought has not ceased while the provincial department of agriculture is still in the process of trying to source funds to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Considering the department’s skewed priorities, the DA is concerned that next year’s looming elections may also have something to do with an apparent unwillingness on the part of government to set aside funding towards the drought assistance. Given the department’s latest splurge, we would not put it past this department to use the millions needed to buy feed for starving cattle, to instead buy vote-winning food parcels for the ANC.

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DA requests that Makana municipality be placed under administration

Dacre Haddon (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Local Government

The DA in the Eastern Cape has requested that the Makana Municipality be placed under administration.

Last week’s bail-out by Rhodes University to pay R3 million to Makana as “advanced rates” because the municipality couldn’t pay staff salaries shows a municipality in dire financial distress.

Grahamstown’s water crisis, caused largely due to lack of funding to repair or replace ageing infrastructure, was another red light of Makana Municipality’s serious financial trouble.

I have written to the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to undertake a forensic investigation of the finances of Makana and to place the municipality under administration.

Furthermore, my colleague in parliament, Kevin Mileham MP, has written to the Minister of Cooperative Governance, Lechesa Tsenoli, asking him to intervene in this matter.

In addition, I will be following up why the Municipal Manager of Makana refuses to sign a Performance Agreement (a requirement by law) allegedly because he has received a better employment offer elsewhere.

If this is the case, the DA calls for this Municipal Manager to be sacked.

With Makana being a popular tourist- and education centre and Grahamstown a judicial seat of the High Court, it is imperative that swift action be taken to ensure stabilisation of this municipality.

The DA will ensure that this takes place.

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Time to trim the fat off Gauteng’s half a billion Rand travel and catering bill

Mike Moriarty MPL

Spokesperson on Finance

Gauteng Provincial Departments spent R534.240 million on entertainment, catering and travel and subsistence in the 2012/13 financial year, this is more than the entire budget for the Department of Community Safety or Sports, Recreation, and Culture.

The total is also up by almost R200 million from the previous financial year.

Gauteng Departments spend an average of R3.5 million a month on catering, but the greatest driver of spending is travel and subsistence, with R380 million spent on local travel and just over R100 million on foreign travel.

The expenditure contained in the various 2012/13 Annual Reports for the departments is broken down as follows:

 

 2012/2013 

 2011/2012 

 R ‘ 000 

 R ‘ 000 

Travel and Subsistence

491 628

305 254

Catering

42 049

46 332

Entertainment

563

1 242

Total

534 240

352 828

 

The Premier and Economic Development Departments each spent more than R5 million on foreign travel, while Sports MEC Lebogang Maile’s department spent R6.5 million on catering. A detailed breakdown is available here.

The DA is pleased to note that the entertainment spending has halved, but it is clear that more needs to be done to trim the fat.

The DA hopes that Gauteng Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe will announce cost cutting measures in his mini-budget next month similar to those pushed for by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan recently.

Politicians and departmental staff must make use of cost effective travel and accommodation. Government and its officials must not be allowed to abuse the public purse by living in luxury at the public expense.

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Fraudster contractors delay school’s completion by two years

Jacques Smalle MP

DA Limpopo Provincial Leader

The Limpopo Education department has missed its own deadline for completing Matsimela High school in Ga Makgoba Village outside Lebowakgomo by two years. The money has been allocated and paid to a contractor, but this contractor has now vanished.

The school was supposed to be finished in 2011, but it is still incomplete.

Limpopo’s Education MEC, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, must launch a forensic investigation to determine where the money went and how the  contract was awarded to this contractor.

The school is still without administrative furniture (click here), paving (click), palisade fencing, storm water control, windows , administrative toilets and ceilings (click).

Roofing in other classrooms is being eaten by ants (click) and could collapse on the learners at any moment.

The contractor vanished with more than R3 million for the following:

•             R96 000 was allocated for toilets

•             R500 000 for installation of electricity by specialists

•             R2 million for the demolition of a dilapidated structure, termite control, paving, rainwater harvesting and fencing

•             R50 000 for security measures to the computer room

•             R30 000 for nutrition centre equipment

It is completely unacceptable that our children are now forced  to use a half-completed building because of one individual’s greed and corruption. We need to determine exactly what happened with the money, and what steps are being taken against this contractor. We also need to determine how this contractor won the contract to build the school in the first place.

It is clear that the Education Department also failed to do proper monitoring on this project, and that the accountability and management mechanisms needed to complete these kinds of projects are not in place.

The DA calls on the MEC Magadzi to investigate the matter and hold the contactors accountable.

The money must be recovered if possible, and  the relevant companies must be blacklisted. Limpopo can’t afford to deal with crooks.

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DA wants Gauteng MEC to fix scholar transport problems for learners on farms

Khume Ramulifho MPL

Spokesperson on Education

The DA has written to Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy to investigate allegations of unroadworthy scholar transport and drunk driver who are responsible for transporting learners to Wedela Primary and Technical High in the West Rand.

Should these allegations be correct, the scholar transport program is putting our learners at risk. It is unacceptable and the necessary action must be taken urgently.

The learners from Kaalplaas, Klipdrift and Elfespruit are mostly affected. This year alone, learners spent almost a month without transport and have been walking for more than 7km to and from schools.

The DA believes that scholar transport must be reliable and roadworthy. Equally, the driver must never drink and drive the bus transporting learners. This is illegal and a huge threat to the safety and well-being of learners.

The MEC must fix this problem by launching an investigation immediately and implementing the recommendations as a matter of urgency.

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Government disregard for public participation undermines faith in democracy

Lebo More MPL

Spokesperson on Petitions

Gauteng government departments and municipalities are the greatest obstacles to meaningful public participation as they continue to undermine the Petitions process and committee in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.

Committee Chairperson Lindiwe Lasindwa stopped short of admitting this in response to a question during a radio interview on the challenges the Petitions committee is experiencing.

The reality is that  municipalities and departments generally fail to respond on time or even submit follow up reports as required until they are subpoenaed by the committee.

There appears to be a general sluggish attitude by provincial departments and municipalities towards the genuine concerns expressed by Gauteng residents through the petitions process.

These departments are often given more than two weeks to respond and often fail to meet deadlines without offering an explanation. It is hardly surprising that residents lose faith in the public participation and petitions process and take to the streets instead, as is the case in Bekkersdal.

The Auditor-General previously found that the Westonaria Local Municipality, which governs Bekkersdal, made changes to performance objectives without communicating them to the public and without approval by the council, as required by legislation.

The DA calls on all Gauteng Provincial Government Departments to respond timeously to the requests for reports. Public participation and petitions is a constitutional necessity and a cornerstone of our new democratic dispensation.

Gauteng departments and municipalities must not further undermine the trust and faith of residents in democracy by scoffing at their pleas for help.

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‘Moonlighting’ doctors: KZN DOH must take action

Mark Steele, MPP

DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on Health

Allegations made yesterday concerning a number of doctors and medical specialists at Grey’s and Edendale Hospitals who, while in full time employ at these public facilities, also run private practices elsewhere in the city are alarming.

‘Moonlighting’ is illegal and compromises the care patients in the public health care system are receiving.

Of concern to the Democratic Alliance is how much the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department knows about these allegations, for how long they have known, and why it has taken so long for decisive action to be taken by the Department.

A reply to a parliamentary question submitted some weeks ago by the DA reveals that the department is currently investigating moonlighting claims against doctors at Grey’s Hospital.  The MEC for Health has indicated that once these investigations are finalised the findings will be handed over to the SA Health Professions Council.

This is simply not good enough.

Professional misconduct is the responsibility of the Council, but the Department of Health is the employer of these doctors and if these allegations are proven correct they are in breach of public service regulations.

The DA expects that the Department will speedily conclude these investigations and then, if necessary, move immediately to whatever disciplinary action is appropriate.

‘Moonlighting’ which goes unpunished undermines both the morale of other medical staff and the integrity of the institutions concerned and the Department must be seen to be acting firmly and decisively.

The DA expects the MEC to treat this matter with the gravity it deserves and to ensure that the probe is fast-tracked.

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129 companies paid late by Gauteng infrastructure department

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

129 companies that do work for the Gauteng Health Department were paid late this year by the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID).

This was revealed yesterday by Infrastructure Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu in response to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

88 of the companies were not paid within 30 days, as required by law, and 41 companies were owed money for more than 90 days.

This is a shocking pattern of late payments that has caused much of the delay in building and maintaining clinics and hospitals in Gauteng.

Much of the problem is caused by the delay in transferring money from the health department to the infrastructure department that pays the companies.

The money gets tied up in the bureaucracy, and the companies suffer without payment.

This payment inefficiency must be fixed urgently.

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Youth Wage Subsidy Now! Trial run shows youth get job opportunities

John Moodey MPL

Provincial Leader

The DA in Gauteng reiterates our call for the immediate implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy in Gauteng as a study found that such initiatives do put young people in job opportunities.

A trial run and evaluation of the impact of a wage subsidy voucher indicates that employment incentives increase the likelihood of young job-seekers being employed. The study also observed that they also increase the time young people remain employed.

The evaluation also found no evidence of older or existing workers being replaced.

It is clear that such incentives are a cost effective and workable way to stimulate employment.

With similar initiatives more than 400 000 job opportunities have been created in the Western Cape.

The Youth Wage Subsidy is an integral part of the DA’s plan to stimulate economic growth and job creation in Gauteng.

Unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment, is a crisis in Gauteng that requires real leadership and tried and tested policies to address.

The DA offers the 1.7 million unemployed persons in Gauteng exactly that: real solutions to ensure jobs are created to allow every person to get a job and get a head in life.

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