NCLB must promote responsible alcohol consumption

By Boitumelo Babuseng MPL, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Finances:

The DA is concerned that in the face of devastating alcohol abuse consequences, the demand for alcohol in the Northern Cape is steadily on the increase.

According to the Northern Cape Liquor Board’s (NCLB) Annual Report, 703 applications were prepared for consideration by the Liquor Board during the 2014/2015 financial year. This amounts to 58 more than the 645 applications prepared for consideration in the previous year.

The number of liquor license applications received and liquor licenses issued are extremely high and are the surest measure of demand for alcohol across the province.

This is very worrying especially when considering that the Northern Cape has the highest Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) rate in the world and that there has been an escalation in alcohol-related crimes in this province.

What is even more worrying is the concession by the board’s Chief Executive Officer, Rudessa Stadhouer-Andrews, that “the NCLB is not in the position to effectively address all the social ills associated with alcohol, including alcohol abuse, underage drinking, FAS, violence, selling of alcohol to pregnant women and the increase of mushrooming shebeens” due to a lack of funding.

The DA does not accept this excuse.

The NCLB has failed to improve on its audit opinion in the past two years, having retained an unqualified opinion with findings. Amongst other things, goods and services of a transaction value above R500 000 were procured without inviting competitive bids as required by treasury regulations, leaving the board wide open to corruption.

The board also has overlapping members who serve on both the board and the audit committee, facilitating a situation whereby it acts as both the judge and jury of its performance. This is not only unlawful but also defeats the very purpose of an audit committee, to independently assess the performance of the entity and raise concerns that must be rectified.

The poor attendance of board meetings by certain members, particularly Chairperson, Roger Matthews, and Deputy Chairperson, Haroldt Robertson, who only attended fourteen and eight meetings respectively compared with an ordinary board member who attended 50 meetings, reflects a lack of commitment by these two members. It also raises questions as to which meetings actually achieved a quorum. This in turn raises questions with regards to the validity of decisions taken during board meetings, including the board’s key business of the granting of liquor licences.

The DA appeals to Acting MEC of Economic Development, Mac Jack, to remove the chairperson and deputy chairperson and clean up the dysfunctional Liquor Board’s operations and finances. This would free up money to better regulate the liquor industry and in so doing, address the social ills linked to alcohol consumption, while launching better programs for alcohol risk education.

At the same time, we are also requesting the MEC to investigate allegations of nepotism against Stadhouer-Andrews who is believed to be in the process of appointing two of her friends to the positions of personal assistant and procurement officer.  An advertisement for these positions mysteriously only appeared in the Noordkaap, despite the provincial government having a subscription contract with the New Age, increasing our suspicions that this was done purposefully to maintain a low profile of the vacancies.

As the key facilitator of alcohol consumption in the Northern Cape, it’s high time that the NCLB takes its task of promoting the responsible use of alcohol seriously.

The Northern Cape currently has to deal with a whole generation of children with alcohol-induced disabilities. We also have to deal with a very high rate of alcohol-induced violence, including murders and domestic violence. The NCLB must in part accept responsibility for this and come up with a plan to turn the tide on alcohol abuse.