COGTA MEC Mlamleli blasé about collapse of local government in Free State

James Letuka

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The below speech was delivered by James Letuka (MPL) during the debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.

Honourable Speaker,

Last year, on the 9th of June, we met in this House and we highlighted impact the water crisis has on the lives of thousands of people in many municipalities within the Free State.

Twenty six (26) towns within the Free State Province experienced water supply problems ranging from regular water disruptions to enjoying access to water that is unfit for human consumption.

In March 2015 the situation has not changed to the better, instead a few more towns have joined the fray.

Madam Speaker,

What actions did the Department of Cooperative Governance, Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements take to address the findings of the Human Rights Commission Report, dated 30 September 2013, against the department for failure to ensure delivery of clean, safe and sustained water supply to Free State communities?

Honourable Speaker,

Through you, may we know from MEC Olly Mlamleli what measures, strategies she has put in place to address the failure of municipalities to deliver basic services?

It is evident that the Free State municipalities have, according to the Auditor General’s Report, abandoned knowingly or unknowingly the principles of good governance and sound financial management.

It is no wonder that local government in the province is near collapse. It can never be acceptable that almost all the municipalities within the Free State Province have received qualified audits.

This happens despite the fact that most of them have been using consultants for several years.

Is the work of the consultants monitored, if so by whom?

Are there any skills transfer taking place between the municipalities and the consultants?

Free State municipalities are collectively in debt to the amount of almost R3,6 billion. Household debt in the province tops almost R6 billion.

By way of looking at the total amounts of payables and receivables of municipalities, we can conclude that local governance in the Free State is near total collapse. The provincial municipal ESKOM bill totals just over R1, 1 billion and another R1, 13 billion is owed to water boards.

The delivery of basic services continues to deteriorate across all the municipalities, our communities are being threatened by ESKOM to have their electricity suspended, unemployment and poverty is skyrocketing.

While all this continues the ANC merely sits by and continues as if nothing is wrong.

Out of the 15 worst performing municipalities, the number might have increased by now, nine have collapsed while an additional six are basically on the verge of collapse.

Seven received qualified audit reports and eight received disclaimers. No matter what MEC Mlamleli or Premier Ace Magashule says, it is clear that the ANC-led Free State government has ‘governed’ the province into the abyss.

The ANC does not have the political will nor the policies that could turn this sorry state of affairs around.

It feels like I am experiencing déjà vu in this legislature, raising the very same issues I did a year ago.

Honourable Speaker,

We have tried to engage MEC Mlamleli constructively in these matters. We have sent her several letters requesting her to come forward with concrete proposals in how to address these problems.

 

MEC Mlamleli did not reply to our letters, we wonder if she even bothered to read them.

 

The ANC always criticise the DA for criticising the ANC just for the sake of criticism. But when we engage constructively we are ignored.

MEC Mlamleli is just as tardy with her reply to written questions.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

The Department of Human Settlements launched approximately thirteen different housing schemes developed for different categories of need.

We also welcome the department’s response to help bridge the gap market.

In the recent past the department has been the victim of large-scale mismanagement and corruption which still continues to haunt the department in that several senior managers were suspended leaving the department with these positions vacant, impacting or their ability to function.

Several projects were interrupted and stopped, and on numerous occasions houses had to be demolished and rebuilt due to them being uninhabitable.

All over the Free State we see half built houses standing unused and being plundered and vandalised.

This is a waste of the people’s money.

The Auditor-General reports that Supply Chain regulations have been contravened on a large scale.

We see for example that over 300 houses had to be re-built in Warden in Phumelela when they were found to be seriously faulty. How could the same contractor who had failed the first time be awarded the contract to repair its own damaged houses?

This is patently ridiculous! The department basically paid twice for the same houses. Or to put it simply, twice as many homes could have been built for the same money.

All of these issues have placed a massive financial strain on the department.

This is what we mean when we say corruption makes poor people poorer.

Honourable Speaker,

The cost of an RDP house, according to the department, varies from R20 000 to R875 000 per house.  How can the department possibly budget when they have not the faintest idea what the houses will ultimately cost?

But the saddest thing for us as the DA, is that through all this mismanagement and financial chaos, it is the people who suffer.

The mandate of the department is to deliver homes to those who have no other means of obtaining a home. And while we wholeheartedly support the promotion and opportunity given to emerging contractors, this cannot be done at the expense of the people.

When contracts are awarded to clearly incompetent, and often politically connected contractors, the effect is to enrich them while denying the rights of the people. In this way a few are getting richer while the majority are getting poorer.

It is our sincere hope that the department has come to realise its failures and mistakes, and that going forward it will put the people first, and not friends and cadres of the ANC.

Until we are assured that the department is serious about its constitutional mandate, has instituted consequences for corruption and mismanagement, we cannot support the budget as presented to us.

The DA believes that the people of the Free State deserve better.