Andrew Louw, MPL
DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
The DA has evaluated seven provincial government departments that are at the face of service delivery. These departments are:
- Office of the Premier
- Economic Development & Tourism
- Social Development
- Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development
- Transport, Safety & Liaison.
The Northern Cape has a population of 1.1 million people, 40% of whom live in poverty. These seven departments should offer residents the most realistic chance to better their lives. So how have they fared in this past year?
Office of the Premier: (2/10)
Premier Lucas has stepped into her role of leadership amid a storm of controversy. Although her department received an unqualified audit, she has underspent her budget by R4.4-million on her core function of policy and governance.
Strangely, her department conducted no monitoring & evaluation, as the unit did not conduct a single quarterly site visit. In a show of a complete disregard for the poverty people experience in this province, Lucas spent R53 159 in her first 10 weeks as Premier on fast food and groceries, misusing her official credit card.
She has failed residents of this province by not monitoring her administration and has wasted money in a scandal that has embarrassed the Northern Cape. Premier Sylvia Lucas gets 2/10.
Economic Development & Tourism: (0/10)
The MEC, John Block, has no place being in government. Block is before the courts facing serious charges of fraud and corruption.
The department received an unqualified audit, but the department has failed in the two indicators that matter, namely economic growth and unemployment.
The province’s unemployment rate remains at 36.3%. This is unacceptably high.
The department underspent by R11.9-million, stalling the implementation of key projects like the Wireless Mesh Network. This all stalls development further.
The dubious character of MEC Block also brings the department into disrepute, and it is no surprise that the department does not have any Public-Private Partners and investors working with it.
MEC Block is not fit to be in office. He gets 0/10.
MEC GrizeldaCjiekella has not shown the leadership required to fix Northern Cape education.
Her department received a qualified audit report, has underspent its budget by R76-million, and failed to achieve 68% of its planned targets.
The department also ran up R285-million in irregular expenditure and R16.8-million in unauthorised expenditure. School children face shortages in libraries, computer rooms, and laboratories, and yet the department underspent on the programme meant to deliver these.
Having said all of this, the Northern Cape continues to produce better matric results than the national average.
Things aren’t going particularly well, but it could be worse. MEC Cjikella gets 3/10.
Social Development: (6/10)
The Social Development Department represents a missed opportunity. MEC Chukelwa Chotelo could be using this department to expand opportunity and true empowerment. We welcome her department receiving an unqualified audit. Unfortunately, all of the department’s attention is given poverty alleviation, and almost nothing to poverty eradication. We believe this department must be run to eradicate poverty over time through the expansion of opportunity as opposed to just alleviating the effects of poverty in the province.
The department funds over 897 welfare organisations. Some important sectors are underfunded, like centres providing support to victims of domestic violence. On the whole this number can be trimmed down, with increased support to the organisations that do the best work.
The department also supports 106 soup kitchens in the province. This is a noble approach, but it needs to be linked to services that would expand opportunity for the poor.
The province still does not have Drug Rehabilitation Centres.
MEC Chotelo needs to restructure her department to focus on opportunity and not just welfare, and gets 6/10.
Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development: (3/10)
MEC Norman Shushu’s department received an unqualified audit with findings for the 2012/13 year, however his impact has been minimal in people’s lives.
The department has not achieved 34% of its planned targets, and underspent its conditional grants, aimed at helping all agri-businesses, by R285-million.
The department still does not have enough Extension Officers who provide technical assistance to emerging farmers. This caused many projects to fail.
The department has also incurred R21-million in irregular expenditure and R2.4-million fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Established and emerging farmers have been devastated in the face of the recent drought. To date no Disaster Risk Management Plan been put in place.
For his failure to adequately respond to the drought crisis, MEC Shushu gets 3/10.
MEC Mxolisa Sokatsha has a bad track-record, and has received a qualified audit report.
The health department has incurred R792-million in irregular and R1.8-million in wasteful expenditure.
Of greatest concern is the failure of the department to spend its budget on sorely needed programmes.
47% of people treated in health facilities are HIV patients, yet the department underspent its budget meant for HIV treatment by R35.8-million.
Nearly R19-million was underspent on the province’s Emergency Medical Services. No ambulances were purchased and no control rooms were built, despite the shortage in the province.
The completion of the long overdue Kimberley Mental Hospital still remains doubtful, and has meant patients are kept in prisons due to a lack of facilities.
The department has not filled critical vacancies across the province, and has reduced people’s access to quality healthcare.
MEC Sokatsha gets 0/10 for his sub-par performance.
Transport, Safety & Liaison: (4/10)
MEC Mac Jack has only recently taken over the department. He needs to act on the crises this department finds itself in.
The department’s HOD, Stephen Jonkers, is before the courts facing fraud and corruption charges related to defrauding his own department.
The DA has also revealed information of further allegations of irregularities and fraud in the department, with Jonkers having appointed two contractors to provide learner transport for one bus route.
The department received an unqualified report with findings, as R98-million worth of receivables is irrecoverable.
It also incurred R113-million in irregular expenditure, and 82% increase on the previous year.
The department failed to launch an Integrated Transport Plan for the province, and a majority of residents still are without subsidized public transport.
Despite the fact that many residents commute to and from work by walking and cycling, no dedicated pedestrian and cycling routes exist in major cities.
The last crime stats reveal that many major crimes such as murder (up 12%), aggravated robbery (up 27.9%), hijacking (up 211%), and drug-related crimes (up 7.1%) have increased sharply in the province.
It certainly does not inspire much confidence in residents that the corruption and fraud charged HOD is the same person who drafted the Provincial Crime Prevention Strategy.
MEC Jack has a lot of work to do, and he has not done much since coming into office. He needs to suspend his HOD, and get the department working. For now, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He gets 4/10.
The DA will continue to monitor the performance of the provincial government. But we can only truly turn this decline around if we are voted into government. Next year’s general elections offer residents a chance to stick with the same, or change for the better.