Budget Vote Debate: Public Works is struggling to deliver

Leona Kleynhans MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

Note: This is an extract of a speech delivered by Leona Kleynhans during the Budget Votes debate in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.

Madam Speaker,

We all agree that in order for the economy to grow and for jobs to be created, infrastructure development and the maintenance of existing infrastructure is key.

It is a central task of the State is to create an environment that ensures that infrastructure development takes place in order to sufficiently stimulate and serve a growing economy and population.

We must also ensure that what we build is operated and maintained efficiently and cost effectively.

The reality experienced by our people on the ground is this:

Municipalities face severe service delivery constraints, partly because of the failure by this department to pay for property rates taxes and utility bills due to municipalities.

Two municipalities face the prospect of having their electricity supply cut off by Eskom – in large part due to failure by this department to meet its financial obligations.

ESKOM has repeatedly threatened to suspend electricity supply to the entire Maluti-a-Phofung municipality. The municipality owes ESKOM in excess of more than R200 million outstanding for more than two years.

This department exacerbated this issue by blatantly refusing to pay Rural Maintenance for electricity supply to government buildings such as schools, hospitals and municipal offices, claiming that they do not recognise the appointed service provider, and therefore, won’t pay, but it used that electricity nonetheless.

The situation in the Ngwathe Local Municipality is not any different,  owing ESKOM a R188 million.

This will mean that schools, hospitals and clinics will not be able to work – because of the Department of Public Works, which is supposed to pay the bills are not doing so.

It would appear that the Department of Public Works are heading towards the same sort of financial mess the departments of Health and Education are finding themselves in.

Madam Speaker,

As e read in the 2012/2013 Annual Report, the department faces enormous challenges, including:

 

  • A shortage of personnel with property related technical skills;
  • 46% of the existing personnel (some of who possess scarce technical skills) are almost at retirement age;
  • Budget constraints impacting on almost every function of the department – most worryingly the failure to conduct technical condition assessments on 4 677 buildings managed by the department;
  • Failure to effectively maintain an asset register – only 1 008 of the 4 677 buildings are verified on the system;
  • A lack of a proper Contract Management Systems to manage the construction and maintenance projects of the department;
  • And an inadequate system of internal controls and risk management.

 

Madam Speaker,

While the Honourable Premier expounds on his utopian dreams and raises the expectations of the people, this department which is responsible to make this all come true does not have the money, or the suitably qualified staff to deliver on these promises.

The Department is currently unable to properly maintain the assets, which belong to the people of this province.

Madam Speaker,

All the dreams and hopes of our people, for economic development, a good education and decent work, are dependent on the ability of this department to deliver on its task to ‘build, operate and maintain its assets efficiently and effectively’.