DA KZN: MEC must get the basics right

Ann McDonnell, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on EDT

KWwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Economic Development Tourism and Environment Affairs has a critical role to play as the main driver of our job creation initiatives in the province. Yet it is unlikely to reach its full potential through Tourism until access roads are upgraded, visitors feel safe in a crime free environment, the environment is clean, our communities healthy, facilities maintained, and a professional service provided to visitors.

Employment creation by this department must happen within the Environment, not in spite of it.   The parlous state of pollution of our drinking water stocks is a result of poor planning, maintenance and care by ANC councils.

The DA urges MEC Mabuyakhulu to get back to basics. The DA is convinced that this period through until the end of the current financial year should be used to get the basics right instead of focusing on grand projects like the Drakensburg cableway and investing in

Economic Development and Tourism

Tourism has proven to be a successful economic driver world-wide.  For the next 6 months the focus needs to be on facilities and infrastructure of our world renowned beaches and game parks, particularly Ezemvelo.

KZN is bleeding its tourism spend.  Wonderful sites are there, gate entries are up, but visitors are staying elsewhere.

By their own admission, in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park the roads are destroyed, accommodation substandard, toilets not cleaned, shops under stocked and staff de-motivated.   Yet the infrastructure budget was under-spent by 87% and the Buildings budget by 52%.   Why did KZN’S department of Transport and Public Works not help with the infrastructure roll out required in order to maintain our position in this vibrant tourism sector.   Cape Vidal is no better from visitors’ reports.

San Parks is successfully running accommodation and amenities in the Kruger Park – why can we not emulate them?  Before the opening of an exciting new Park between Durban and PMB the department should be getting the basics right.

Why is Ezemvelo not reimbursed for the good conservation service they supply to isiMangaliso World Heritage site?   No service level agreement exists to transfer funds for the service provided.  Some resorts in the Drakensberg uKhahlamba World Heritage site are in the same boat.  The MEC for Finance made the point – head office spend should be tempered towards sites which generate tourism jobs.

Another key driver in this department is our safe bathing beaches and warm Indian Ocean, protected by the Sharks Board so diligently.   The growth of the Marine Economy and skilling programme are fully supported by the DA as a means of making our young people employable.

Environmental Affairs

The DA reminds the MEC of some of Goal 5’s strategic objectives from the Provincial Growth Development Plan;

–          By 2015 to generate 1200 MW of green energy from 9.1 MW baseline stated

–          Saving energy currently 180GWH to 3905GWH by 2015

–          Greenhouse gas reduction

Stretch targets MEC – 2015 is five months away!

In the Ilembe district, touted as the “green hub”, there is a huge multi-billion diesel-burning Peaking Power Plant currently under construction.  It is designed to generate electricity by burning diesel (transported by road from Durban) to turn huge turbines using hundreds of liters of scarce potable water for cooling.   This is wrong on all counts – potable water use, fossil fuel burning, high carbon footprint from road transport and air pollution – and is against all Sustainable Development Goals and Millennium Development goals.   It is a National project though being funded by the French Government with an Egyptian partner.   The reality is that the huge profits from expensive electricity generated (estimated R8 per KWH) at this Peaking Power Plant will go overseas, leaving the pollution in KZN.

What should be happening is co-generation from sugar cane or land fill sites in the same area – a much cheaper and more labor intensive initiative.

Rhino

The very emotive issue of Rhino poaching has been in the headlines worldwide.   This Province and Ezemvelo have been very proactive, entering into partnerships with SAPS as well as civil initiatives, resulting in fewer animals being lost to poaching syndicates.  While one death is too many, we commend these efforts to protect our wildlife heritage.

San Parks is planning relocation as a way of protection, but they have lost so many more animals.  The DA encourages Ezemvelo to keep exploring their options, even broadening their vigilance to elephant currently being poached freely for ivory in the North.

EIA

This process seems to be under attack from many government departments under pressure to deliver.  I submitted questions to the MEC querying the Green Scorpions halting the draining of the Makhatini flats on 23 June, and enquiring whether an EIA had been done as is required for work in a wetland.   I have yet to receive a response.   I now see that it forms part of a program for Agriculture development.  But still the law requires an EIA.   It is a travesty when those charged with a duty of care are perceived to be the abusers.

Entities

There are several operational areas within the department which are a concern – one being the bill for consultants, which stood at 40% of the budget in the last financial year.  This is unacceptable.

Another is entities.  The department is the caretaker of many entities – 10 to 13 were mentioned – all supposed to be creating jobs and developing SMME’s.   There is a definite need for rationalization here so that meager funding is not used for administration and salaries alone while strategic objectives fail to be met.

Of the Department’s total budget of R1.9 billion in 2014, some R1.2 billion is intended for transfers to public entities, so it is important that we ask the question – are we getting value for money out of these entities?

The DA urges the MEC to subject every single entity in his Department to a rigorous test and ask does the entity add any value to the province of KZN or should it not be shut down and its functions transferred back to the Department where they can be absorbed by the appropriate unit, section or programme.

The following components of such an evaluation are proposed;

–          Duplication of functions. Does the entity duplicate the services or functions already performed by this or any other provincial department, or does it offer services which are in fact unique across the provincial government?

–          Legal mandate.  Does the entity operate according to a particular legal mandate not shared by any other part of government?

–          Special skills and capacity.  Does the entity possess and develop special skills, knowledge and capacity not shared elsewhere in the government service?

–          Productivity and value.  Does the entity provide value to the people of KZN in excess of anything similar offered by the Department or is it a liability?

If the answer is ‘No’ to any one of these questions the next question should be ‘give me a good reason why I shouldn’t close you down immediately!’

Of particular concern to the DA is the cost of Boards – their remuneration and associated costs, and the salaries awarded to senior managers of the entities.  At the very least there should be a degree of standardisation of public entity Board remunerations and CEO salaries which must be related to comparable state departments.  Some examples;

–          The Sharks Board directors cost only R260 000 but out of a budget of R56 million while the CEO takes a generous R1.36 million

–          Dube Tradeport – with its R630million budget has a CEO earning over R1.6 million

–          Trade and Investment KZN has directors which cost over R1 million, but its CEO only earns a modest R850 000.

EDT’s in KZN are a bit like the Wild West – everyone does their own thing and no rules apply.  I trust we can rely on the MEC to make a very strong commitment to a radical evaluation of the whole entities’ sector.