By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader:
The Democratic Alliance will use tomorrow’s opportunity for oral questions to the Premier in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature to determine how she will address the constant absence of provincial MECs from national MINMEC meetings.
Should we fail to get a satisfactory answer from the premier, we will escalate the matter to the Minister of Finance and the deputy President.
We are giving the premier time to prepare a proper reply. No thumb-sucking will be allowed tomorrow. We don’t want to hear her usual blustering. We want a factual, to-the-point explanation of how the premier will execute her duties. She is well aware of the fact that her MECs are failing to attend the meetings regularly.
MINMEC is a forum for the minister and provincial MECs of a specific portfolio to meet with heads of departments, treasury officials and relevant stakeholders.
It is especially worrying that the provincial MEC for Finance is one of the worst offenders when it comes to non-attendance of the meetings. At the national MINMEC meeting, the MEC for Finance must present provincial interests and must argue for funding to develop the province. His absence means that there is nobody to speak for the province.
It means that the Northern Cape just gets the leftover crumbs after the cake has been sliced and shared amongst the other provinces.
During the 2015/16 budget presentations, it was very clear that each department in the province has unfunded mandates and that service delivery is being seriously compromised as a result. For example, the department of Health only received 60% of the funds it needs to replace an aging ambulance fleet. Departments have to submit their bids for funding to the provincial treasury, who can only allocate what is received from national.
Who speaks for the Northern Cape and its people when the MEC for Finance is permanently absent?
The shirking of his duties also has a negative impact on municipalities in the province.
In the DA-led Western Cape, the MEC for Finance goes to each and every municipality to discuss municipal finances. As a result, governance improves and service delivery is far better than elsewhere in the country. The 2013/14 municipal audit outcomes, released last week, showed that the Western Cape had the most municipalities receiving clean audits, with absolutely no adverse, disclaimers or qualified with findings-results. More than 70% of municipalities in the DA-led Western Cape received clean audits, compared to a meagre 6% in the ANC-led Northern Cape. In the Northern Cape, 71% of the total local government budget was handled by municipalities who could not provide credible reports.
The Western Cape has the highest proportions of households receiving free basic waster, free basic electricity and free basic sewerage and sanitation. By comparison, in the Joe Morolong municipality, Census
2011 notes that only 6% of households have access to basic sanitation.
And Northern Cape municipalities are still using conditional grants meant to improve municipal infrastructure to cover operational costs like overinflated salaries instead.
Former auditor-general Terence Nombembe warned that political will is needed if financial management and service delivery in the ANC-led province is to improve.
The absence of John Block comes as no surprise, given his reputation for non-attendance of crucial portfolio meetings at the provincial legislature. If the premier cannot put a solution on the table, she will confirm the rumblings that John Block is the real premier of the province