The marks are in

By Andrew Louw, MPL DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance has conducted a performance assessment of the provincial government for the first six months of the year. Just like a parent is given a report of how his or her child performs at school, we are giving the public a report of how government has performed. We believe in a free, fair society in which government accounts fully to the public. All of the DA’s public representatives have also undergone a performance assessment, because we believe that charity begins at home.

The best performing department is Social Development, which achieved 67%.

The three worst performing departments are Transport, Safety and Liaison (48%), COGHSTA (46%) and Health (44%).

The provincial average for July is 52%. Five departments achieved above this average, with the remaining eight performing below par. Using our pass rate of 50%, seven departments failed. None passed with a distinction. The complete rankings are:

  1. Social Development (67%);
  2. Environment and Nature Conservation (57%);
  3. Legislature and Roads & Public Works (56%);
  4. Treasury (53%);

PROVINCIAL AVERAGE: 52%

  1. Education (51%);
  2. Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; Office of the Premier and Economic Development & Tourism (49%);
  3. Transport, Safety & Liaison (48%);
  4. Sport, Arts & Culture (47%);
  5. COGHSTA (46%);
  6. Health (44%).

We welcome the hard work that is done by many of the officials within the departments. But it is a cause for serious concern that three of the four big service delivery departments are below the provincial average. Health, COGHSTA and Education must pull up their socks in the term that lies ahead.

We base the report card on eight indicators which tracks the individual department’s service delivery, financial management, implementation of the National Development Plan, anti-corruption initiatives, administrative performance and attendance of the MEC in portfolio committee meetings and house sittings. The indicators provide a comprehensive, objective overview and we look for achievements as well as areas of concern.

The report cards are not meant to humiliate departments in the public eye, but to foster accountability.

The department of Health has shown a worrying decline in the past three months and a multitude of service related factors have come to the fore. The department failed to fill key positions in the Supply Chain Management unit and as a result have not been able to get a grip on the growing number of accruals. This is not only eating into funds needed for service delivery, but may also signify an impending regression into a disclaimer if they do not pull up their socks. Failure to maintain infrastructure now sees the department facing a potential crisis regarding the poor state of its mortuaries. Operational ambulances have decreased due to accidents. From the start of the year, there has been a decrease in the number of medical staff in the province.

The housing backlog of 44 111 and the bucket toilet backlog of 20 560 shows that the department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs is failing the people of the province. Rectification of houses ranges between R190 00 and R216 000, while the cost of building one RDP house on a fully serviced site is estimated to cost R150 000. Due in part to poor financial management, services are not being delivered. Interventions to improve municipal administration have failed, as indicated by the Auditor-General in the 2013/14 municipal audit outcomes.

The department of Sport, Arts & Culture hosted celebrations, a provincial dialogue on transformation in the heritage sector, the national Sport in the Struggle exhibition and an exhibition on Chief Albert Luthuli. Its unfunded mandates of R350.799 million are likely to put serious pressure on the department. The department had overspent its 2014/15 budget by 9.3% and underspent on the Community Library Services Grant by 15%. The department also closed the AR Abass stadium on short notice, stating that the facility needed maintenance. While local clubs are not allowed to use the facility, the grounds were made available for the hosting of Africa Day commemorations which included cricket, soccer and netball matches.

In the past six months, the department of Transport, Safety & Liaison has intensified its Road Safety Education campaign. The campaigns were heightened when our roads experienced high traffic volumes, such as the Easter weekend. The Democratic Alliance has, however, raised serious concerns with the department over its financial management and internal controls and systems. The R60 million it received from the Road Traffic Management Corporation to bolster road safety education was transferred into the account of a private company and used for office furniture, catering and other non-essential items. The department struggles to render the learner transport services optimally. Many learners have been left stranded and missed school. In Dikgatlong, learners missed more than two weeks.

The Office of the Premier must begin to provide better strategic leadership on a number of crucial provincial issues, including financial management and municipal administration. The Provincial Planning Forum and the Provincial Development Planning Forum does not appear to be functioning optimally as yet.

Poor financial planning remains a concern in the department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform. This has most notably been marked by the department failing to spend its full drought relief allocation. The R7.6 million it had to return to National Treasury could have purchased enough lucerne for 12 000 cows for an entire month. Uncertainty with regards to land reform projects is also threatening food security and failing to create much needed jobs in rural areas. On a positive note, 20 smallholder farmers graduated to commercial farmers. District Land Committees have also been established in all the districts. If functioning properly, they can do much to improve land reform in the province. If misused, they could be used to further unconstitutional land policies, such as promoting land caps. The Democratic Alliance is concerned about the department’s failure to answer questions relating specifically to the functions and authority under which these committees are operating.

The department of Economic Development and Tourism is quick to shift the blame for poor economic performance to external factors, but does not take responsibility for any of the factors it can and must control. It is failing to deliver on its key function of creating an environment that is conducive for the creation of jobs and, at 45%, youth unemployment is higher here than anywhere else in the country. The Western Cape is subject to the same global economic factors and has managed to grow its provincial economy by 2.3% through the implementation of sound financial policies like the Youth Wage Subsidy which specifically addressed youth unemployment.

Similarly, the department of Education is quick to claim the glory for achievements like winning the Aqua Enduro competition and reluctant to accept responsibility for service delivery failures. Improvements such as the 5.7% increase in the Mathematics pass rate amongst grade 12s and the new system to monitor absenteeism are overshadowed by serious concerns on many issues, including reported shortages of supplies long after the school year had started, the continued lack of a contingency plan to keep schools open during community protests and the inordinately long waiting list at public special schools.

It is time for the Provincial Treasury to embrace its obligations on the administration of the provincial budget. It runs a clean ship internally, but remains reluctant to act against financial irregularities within departments. For example, provincial accruals now stand at R1 billion and represent 5.1% of the 2014/15 provincial budget. At the end of the 2013/14 financial year, accruals represented 4.7% of the provincial budget. If Treasury does not assist departments to manage accruals better, the delivery of basic and important services will suffer.

The department of Roads & Public Works has been hard at work, improving the conditions of our roads and constructing new ones. Construction of the roads has also been in partnership with mining houses, especially in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district. Challenges remain constant. Tenders amounting to millions of rands are awarded without following transparent supply chain procedures. Some contracts are given to service providers without a decision from a bid committee. The Democratic Alliance is also concerned about the number of misused and damaged government cars.

The violation of a protection order by the Speaker of the Provincial Legislature makes a mockery of all proceedings within the Legislature which strive to promote, advance and protect the rights of women. Some improvements have been noted, such as the implementation of an electronic leave system which curb the potential for the misuse of leave.

The department of Environment and Nature Conservation needs to stop complaining and get busy drafting funding proposals to treasury. It clearly remains underfunded, but a lack of initiative and inability to prioritise is limiting this department from achieving more. It also puts a cap on progress made in important issues such as combating poaching.

The department of Social Development continues to implement astute financial management practices. A budget cut has been worked into administrative sub-programmes only and does not affect service delivery. Instead, the department’s budget shows a commitment to service delivery, with close to R600 million of R709 million going towards service delivery line function programmes. The department does need to do more to increase services provided by NPOs. We are concerned by the department’s ongoing caginess regarding funding allocations towards individual NPOs and its approach of quantity over quality. This is seen in the funding of 822 NPOs, many of which make a questionable impact on society and many of which fail to spend the funds allocated to them. In contrast, there are NPOs that perform key services, such as victim empowerment and substance abuse treatment services, but do not achieve adequate support.

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