FS Budget: Free State on the wrong path led by the wrong people

David van Vuuren
DA Chief Whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The below speech was delivered by David van Vuuren (MPL) during the debate on the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.

 

Speaker, the Democratic Alliance acknowledges the fact that there is a downward reduction in the Free State’s fiscal envelope.

 

We also acknowledge that MEC Rockman has a daunting task in allocating money to different departments in such a way so as to ensure that government contribute to building a better Free State.

 

But what MEC Rockman and Premier Magashule fail to make public is where the real challenges lie and what radical steps this government need to take to remedy the dire situation the Free State finds itself in.

 

The province’s first un-acknowledged challenge lies in the lack of good financial management and accountability.

 

Just last week this Legislature authorised, ex post facto, R721 million in unauthorised expenditure incurred by the Departments of Health, Education, Police, Roads and Transport, Agriculture and Rural Development and Human Settlements. Critical departments needed to improve the lives of our people, but regularly fails in their respective mandates.

 

It is this Legislature’s responsibility to fulfil an oversight role, to ensure that public money is spend optimally.

 

It is also this Legislature’s responsibility to hold the executive to account when they fail.

 

But Speaker,

 

How can it be that a single coordinating department such as the Office of the Premier receive a R100 million more than the Free State Provincial Legislature in funding?

 

This legislature receives a meagre R181 million to conduct oversight to hold eleven departments accountable and at the same time is required to encourage public participation.

 

This Legislature under the ANC majority is not an “activist legislature”, it’s is a lame duck.

 

Departments are supposed to report on expenditure and its programmes as required in terms of the relevant legislation, but this can only be done if you have officials and an executive that serve with integrity and possess the necessary skills, experience and qualifications to make sure that departments fulfil on their mandates.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

It is important that the people in the gallery and in the Free State collectively understand what negative impact un-skilled and un-qualified officials have on service delivery.

 

The ANC appoints its most loyal cadres to be Municipal Managers, Chief Financial Officers and other senior management positions in provincial departments, the Mangaung Metro and other municipalities.

 

Many of them do not possess the minimum basic requirements in education and experience. What they do possess though is political loyalty to the leading ANC faction.

 

How many Municipal Managers in the Free State have a degree and relevant five years’ experience at senior manager level?

 

How many Free State CFOs and HODs hold a postgraduate qualification and seven years’ experience at senior managerial level?

 

How many of these ANC cadres appointed to crucial managerial positions have even a basic understanding of financial legislation governing municipalities, provincial departments and public entities?

 

How many hold a certificate in public finance management?

 

These are questions that need answers. By the look of the audit outcomes of Free State municipalities and provincial departments, very few accounting officers have the requisite skills, experience and qualifications to ensure that the people’s money is spent appropriately and efficiently to ensure quality service delivery.

 

Nine municipalities in the Free State received disclaimed audit outcomes for the 2013/14 financial year and a further five received qualified audits with findings.

 

Only three provincial departments received a clean audit, Treasury, this Legislature and Sports Arts, Culture and Recreation.

 

We are more than 20 years into our new democracy and this is what the ANC in the Free State have to show for it.

 

Speaker,

 

The Free State needs real leadership.

 

Our province needs leaders with integrity, leaders with the will to do what is right, leaders that will take hard and unpopular decisions when necessary.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

Allow me to highlight some examples of good governance to this august House.

 

The DA came in to government in the Western Cape at a moment when the global economy was in turmoil and South Africa was in recession.

 

In the ANC’s last year in government in the Western Cape not a single one of the thirteen departments of the Western Cape Government received a clean audit.

 

In the very first year of DA governance, through hard work and dedication, the DA turned the situation around to such an extent that we received seven completely clean audits.

 

This cannot be achieved if you do not have the political will to take the right decisions.

 

The DA believes in creating opportunity for growth and jobs.

 

Without economic growth there will be no freedom or opportunity for the people in the Free State to live their dreams and create their own success.

If the ANC is serious about opportunity and equality they will make sure that poor people and previously disadvantaged individuals and companies get the opportunity to share in the wealth of the province.

 

But this can only happen if there is growth and opportunity which in the case of the Free State is zero to none.

 

The United Nations State of the World Cities Report 2010/2011 shows that the DA governed City of Cape Town is most equal city in South Africa.

 

The most unequal city in South Africa, and in fact the world, is Johannesburg.

 

The second most unequal is East London followed by Bloemfontein, Ekurhuleni, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Durban, in that order.

 

These are all ANC governed municipalities.

 

This is the DA difference. Where we govern, we govern with integrity, transparency and accountability, but above all, we deliver services to all and we create opportunity.

 

The provincial government has a responsibility towards the people of the province to create opportunities.

 

These opportunities can only be created if there is proper economic growth and development.

 

Municipalities must ensure that the necessary infrastructure is provided and maintained so as to establish new businesses and factories and to encourage entrepreneurship, like the way the DA has been doing in Midvaal in Gauteng.

 

Speaker,

 

Municipalities should ensure that the towns and cities have adequate water, electricity and accessible roads. This will ultimately create sustainable jobs and encourage investors to invest in the Free State.

 

To make our province attractive for people to live and invest in the provincial government must ensure good governance, infrastructure development, quality education and efficient, accessible and equitable health services.

 

What do we currently experience?

 

We have municipalities that owe ESKOM and water boards billions of rands.

 

Uncollected revenue for all Free State Municipalities tops more than R5 billion.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

Can you imagine how many roads, houses, sewage systems can be build and upgraded with this money? How this money can fund the delivery of services such as clean water and the eradication of the bucket system?

 

The departments of Education and Health are currently under enormous financial pressure and will never be able to deliver the very critical services required unless there is a radical intervention within these departments.

 

Both Education and Health have strived this last financial year to mitigate  against accruals that was carried over from previous years, but this have a direct effect on proper service delivery because these departments actually use the money that were budgeted for the day to day operations to pay debt.

 

That is why we experience a total collapse in these departments, it is why the Department of Health does not have money to buy medicine and why the Department of Education can’t pay teacher’s salaries and school subsidies.

 

What is very disconcerting is that in difficult times, provincial departments over the last five years incurred catering and entertainment expenses of about R350 million.

 

The Department of Education alone incurred catering expenses of R150 million.

 

This uncaring manner, of the ANC in government, in managing the province’s finances is, to say the least, criminal.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

Government can have a direct impact on the economy and narrowing the inequality gap through its tender processes.

 

It is an open secret that the ANC use the tender process to reward their cronies and enrich the political connected few.

 

Speaker,

 

The ANC in government creates wealth for only a few, while the majority of our people live in poverty and misery.

 

You can only promise economic freedom if you create opportunities and if you create an ethical habit of working hard.

 

Madam Speaker,

 

One can only learn to work hard by working hard.

 

The tender processes should be opened up to the public to ensure that no government official does business with the state and that previously disadvantaged individuals and companies get the opportunity to share in the economy.

 

In the last year of ANC governance in the Western Cape, they awarded bids to the value of R886 million of which only 40% went to historically disadvantaged owned companies.

 

When the DA came into government in 2009, we cleaned up the supplier database which had previously been dominated by ANC cronies.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

When we opened up the tender process and cleaned out the database, the proportion of companies owned by previously disadvantaged individuals doing business with the Western Cape Government doubled.

 

From January to March 2011, under the DA governance, tenders to the value of R776 million were awarded, of which 89% went to historically disadvantaged individual owned companies.

 

The DA does economic empowerment to the benefit of all, not to a few, like the ANC.

 

The DA in government drives back the legacy of Apartheid through good governance and spending money wisely.

 

The DA governed Western Cape is the only province that has prevented government employees and their families from doing business with the state.

 

Madam Speaker,

 

National Treasury in 2012 and Provincial Treasury in 2014 issued cost containment measures. These measures were issued because there is not enough money to deliver services to the people of the Free State.

 

The mere fact that these measures are required is an indication that neither the provincial government nor municipalities are capable of managing their finances.

 

The financial disarray the ANC has dumped the Free State in necessitated that an instruction had to be issued to prohibit departments and municipalities to waste money.

 

It’s a disgrace.

 

These cost containment measures seek only to put a cap on reckless expenditure, it does very little to stop expenditure on nice-to-haves.

 

In order to radically address the Free State’s financial woes, this government must stop spending on nice-to-haves and use that money to pay off its debt.

 

But Honourable Speaker,

 

Can you imagine that within a month after the cost containment measures were issued, the honourable Premier took 72 delegates to Cuba for two weeks at a cost of more than R14 million.

 

How can this be justified? The Premier forced certain municipalities that can’t afford these luxury trips, like the Masilonyana Local Municipality, to approve an expenditure of R300 000. It is absolutely insensitive and non-caring.

 

Madam Speaker,

 

How can civil servants be expected to perform ethically if the Premier and the provincial executive have so little integrity?

 

How can we hold civil servants accountable when the Premier and his executive are not held responsible for the poor management of finances?

 

There are two MECs here who are defending fraud and money laundering charges in court, yet these two MECs were still put in charge of billions of rands of the people’s money.

 

Barack Obama said and I quote – “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”

 

The picture I’ve painted today shows that the Free State is on the wrong path and governed by the wrong people.

 

Madam Speaker,

 

If the ANC wants to remain in government in the Free State, Premier Ace Magashule must get rid of incompetent MECs and un-qualified and in-experienced senior managers in departments and municipalities who are unwilling to manage finances properly.

 

The DA in the Free State is ready to govern this province. The day will come when the people will give us the mandate to fix what the ANC has broken.

 

Thank you, Speaker.