“Claim no easy victories .… our work is far from over”

Jacques Smalle (MPL)

DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Coghsta

Note: Jacques Smalle response to Department of Coghsta Budget Speech

There is a saying that one should never tell any lies nor claim easy victories.

This resonates very well when we consider COGHSTA’s performance this past financial year and the MEC’s sentiments of her department being one of the best run departments in the province.

While the DA commends COGHSTA for accomplishing most of its targets, it’s the quality of service and output that leaves much to be desired.

An increase in departmental budget does not mean an increase in output nor the provision of quality services.

Lest we forget that the people of Limpopo are not fighting for ideas and goals in APP reports.

They are fighting for their right access basic services and to witness tangible improvements in their lives.

COGHSTA’s role is to ensure that municipalities deliver services that our people are constitutionally entitled to receive. It is to also ensure municipalities are responsive to the needs of their residents. It is to further ensure that they are accountable for their actions and, in some parts their, inaction.

In light of this, it is unacceptable that none of the municipalities in the province received a clean audit in the latest audit outcomes.

In addition to this,7 of our municipalities did not bother to meet the deadline to submit financial statements to the  Auditor General.

“tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”

While the ANC claims to have a good story to tell, the sad reality is that many citizens living in these municipalities have nothing good to tell about the services they receive.

Nothing underscores the ANC governments’ disregard to deliver services more than the millions surrendered to national treasury in the last financial year.

It is not a good story to tell that the department lost R117.6 million.

It is not a good story to tell that the municipalities under spent half a billion rands allocated to them.

It is not a good story to tell that unauthorized expenditure by municipalities over the last 3 years rose to R1.3 billion.

It is not a good story to tell that municipalities recorded irregular expenditure of R2.1billion.

It is not a good story to tell that municipalities squandered R76 million on fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“tell us no lies, claim no easy victories.”

Our municipal supply chain management is in tatters, the Auditor general found of the cases tested that 63% of the awards were made to employees and councillors or other state officials.

80% of the Municipal officials lacked the required skills to manage financial information
100% of the Municipal officials lacked the required skills to manage performance information.

Not one municipality in Limpopo has a clean record of delivering a continuous flow of clean, safe and potable water to residents.

It is embarrassing that just weeks after the uplifment of Sect 100 administration, the Minister of Water and Sanitation had to intervene on the water crisis in Giyani, Mopani District.

This is due to lack of support for municipalities. As a result of under spending, financial mismanagement and poor planning, the municipality is burdened with infrastructure backlogs.

For COGHSTA to regain the confidence and trust we once had in it, the MEC needs to develop a provincial wide plan for municipal support in basic service supply as many other municipalities in different areas in Limpopo also need water and sanitation.

You cannot be seen to hide behind Section 163 of the Constitution that on the one hand guaranteed the independence of local governments, with provincial government being given only a supporting, not interfering role.

The Provincial Lekgotla took a resolution (2012/13 financial year) that mayors and senior management must be responsible for non-improvement on the financial management issues, failing which there would be consequences such as having to vacate their positions .

If this administration is serious about tackling poverty and unemployment, it must be prepared to take the tough steps necessary to ensure that funds allocated to infrastructure development are rolled out on budget, on time and to specification.

It’s time to implement your executive resolution and place more municipalities under section 139 of the Constitution.

It’s time to fire accounting officers and accounting politicians who fail to do their jobs.

The fact that municipalities were unable to achieve clean audits despite having Resident Accountants, clearly demonstrate that our municipalities lack both political and administrative leadership they need to succeed.

You correctly stated in your budget vote that human settlements are at the centre of the work in your department.

Yet housing was the worst performing programme.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the programme under spent the total allocated budget by R382 million.

Even if the housing procurement process was halted due to irregularities, the onus was upon you to ensure full Supply Chain Management Compliance in the first place.
Even if there were illegal activities. Instead, the Department took nine months to conduct investigations which has resulted in 12000 houses not being built.

“tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”

The DA appreciates COGHSTA’s eagerness to build 10 500 houses in the current financial year to make up for lost time, but this is not enough to meet the current demand.

It is the DA’s submission that this government needs to accept that rushing through housing projects simply cannot address the demands.

As such, this department should focus more attention to upgrading the provision of services, such as clean water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal of already established informal settlements, as well as rectifying 1822 housing units that still need to be fixed.

To improve people’s living standards, this department also needs to improve performance on its mandate of Disaster Management.

From the department’s apparent failure to appropriately address disaster management in its APP, and during its budget vote presentation, it would appear that the cessation of the conditional grant for Disaster Management has been accompanied by a pause in the progress of this important mandate.

In a reply by the National Minister the DA has discovered that none of  Limpopo’s local municipalities  comply with the South African National Standard (SANS) 10090 in that a majority of them have fewer than two personnel for Community Protection Against Fire, which is the primary barometer used by municipalities to measure performance of fire services.

Section 29 of the Disaster Management Act of 2002, mandates all provinces to establish disaster management centres. In the Limpopo, such a centre is of critical importance, as disasters such as droughts, floods and fires are familiar events.

The DA has proven everywhere it governs that running an efficient and effective province is not rocket science. It is about getting the basics right: Visionary and responsible political leadership, the appointment of the right person for the job, sound financial management and outcomes driven delivery targets coupled with the political will to put the interests of residents first. And it can be done. The best way to achieve this, Honourable MEC, is to “tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”