DA objects to the 2015/16 Free State Budget

David van Vuuren

DA Chief Whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The DA today objected to the 2015 Appropriation Bill on the grounds that no additional funding has been recovered from non-essential service delivery departments, like that of the Office of the Premier, to assist essential departments such as Health and Education to ensure the delivery of effective, efficient and lifesaving services to the people of the Free State.

 

We maintain that MEC Rockman failed to use the opportunity to review the allocation of funds in a manner that the budget would address the self-inflicted financial woes of the provincial government.

 

There is to date still no reassurances that both the Departments of Education and Health would address their respective shortfalls of almost R800 million for Health and R1,2 billion for Education. We have repeatedly stressed that it is poor financial management to make use of current budgeted funds to pay off debt incurred in previous financial years.

 

This negatively impacts on critical service delivery.

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Roads development can unlock the Free State’s economic potential

Leona Kleynhans

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

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

 

We welcome the budget of R2,4 billion for the Department of Police, Roads and Transport for 2015/2016.

 

The 70% of the budget allocated to construction and maintenance is certainly positive, although we agree with the department that ‘this is not nearly enough’ to meet its mandated responsibility considering the huge backlog with regards to roads infrastructure.

 

The entire amount of R1,3 billion going to construction and maintenance comes from national government in the form of Provincial Roads Maintenance Grants.

 

In a recent portfolio committee meeting it emerged that with only one month to go to this year-end, only 83% of this year’s PRMG had been spent. We certainly hope that the final 17% was spent before year end.

 

The Finance Bill approved this month saw R28 million of unspent conditional grant funding from the 2012/2013 year being returned to the National Deptartment.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

This is unacceptable considering the backlog on roads maintenance in the province, and is an indication of sub-optimal planning and implementation by the department. The department must ensure that its planning is 100% in place so that we can apply for, get and spend every possible cent we can get our hands on.

 

With concern we read in the annual performance plan that only 51% of the roads are currently being maintained. This means that 49% of the roads are not being maintained.

 

The MEC reported that as at the end of 2011, of the 6370 km of provincial tarred road in the Free State, 70% of these roads are in a poor to non-trafficable state.

 

It appears that some of the worst roads in the province are not included in the list of planned projects.

 

MEC Zwane said last week that only 15% of the provincial surfaced roads are poor. It seems that MEC Zwane does not travel a lot, or he has included the national roads in the province in his wildly optimistic assessment.

 

While the national roads are indeed being upgraded, maintained and rehabilitated, our provincial roads are still being severely neglected. If it were not for the national roads running through the province we would probably not be able to get from one end of the Free State to the other.

 

We welcome the R74 – Oliviershoek reconstruction at a cost of R85 million planned for this year, and have noted that the contractor is already on site, however, it is indeed a tragedy that so much damage has already been done to the economy and especially tourism in the region.

 

We hope that when the project is complete in a few years’ time the tourism industry in that area can be rebuilt from scratch.

 

While we all have high expectations for the implementation of the Harrismith Logistics Hub Public Private Partnership, we see that only R4 million of the total project cost of R26 million has been allocated for this year. Although this has been hailed as a flagship project and forms part of the Maluti-a-Phofung Special Economic Zone, we read that only now has R5 million been allocated for advisors to be appointed with a view to identify possible investors.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

We reiterate our call for an independent audit of the provincial roads. This was last done in 2009 when it was found that 63% of the surfaced roads in the province were in a poor to very poor condition.

 

Our reason for this call is to enable the department to properly assess its performance in maintaining the roads in the past six years, and to prioritise its budget allocations to the roads which are in the worst condition and have the highest impact on the economy.

 

This audit should, in fact, be done every year.  The question is – what audit figures is the department using in its applications for national funding? Surely not these six year old figures?

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

With regards to the provincial mandate to oversee and monitor the performance of the SAPS, we welcome the 20 research projects on policing needs, effectiveness and impact of policies, as reported in the annual performance plan of the department. We hope that these research projects will highlight the need for the police to be better trained and better resourced.

 

As an example we see a large number of new police vehicles stored at a police station in Mangaung while police stations are crying out for more vehicles.

 

Our investigations recently showed that the flying squad – also known as 10111 – is operating with two vehicles.

 

This department must intervene to ensure that in the future the despatch of those vehicles is speeded up urgently.

 

Despite the challenges faced by police members we have recently seen a number of successful arrests within hours of violent farm attacks and armed robberies in the province.

 

We salute these policemen and women who have not allowed deficiencies in the police service to deter them from their very important task of protecting citizens. We must ensure that these brave men and women receive our full support in ensuring they get the necessary training and resources to carry out their important work.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

On the issue of transport regulations, we welcome the news that 10 testing stations are now equipped to test the roadworthiness of trucks as well as the three weighbridges in the province which are now calibrated and fully operational.

 

These facilities are not only intended to add to the revenue base of our province, and contribute to our ability to maintain the roads, but also to ensure that the vehicles using our roads are roadworthy.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

We acknowledge the unqualified audit finding of the Auditor- General in the 2013-2014 report.

 

We are, however, very concerned about the findings related to supply chain management and procurement. The persistent problems with non-compliance in this area, not only in this department, but province wide, needs to be seriously addressed.

 

The department must ensure compliance with all laws and regulations in this regard in order to ensure a clean audit report. Furthermore, the lack of consequences for transgressions has been highlighted by the Auditor-General as a reason for concern.

 

Where officials have not complied with the law, action must be taken. Pleading ‘not knowing’ is no valid excuse at all. Irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure must be investigated and those responsible must – pay back the money.

 

We are extremely concerned about transparency with regards to the advertisement of tenders and awarding of contracts. Even the Portfolio Committee is having difficulty in obtaining this information which must by law be made public.

 

Attempts to withhold this information are driving perceptions of corruption and nepotism. Until these tenders and contracts are fully disclosed as required by law, these allegations will not go away.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

Another concern is the continued appointment of people without the relevant competencies. Where potential employees claim to have certain qualifications, these claims must be thoroughly investigated and verified.

 

We have also been told that three cases of criminal conduct by employees are the subject of disciplinary proceedings. Why are the police not investigating these alleged criminal cases? In terms of the law any alleged crime must be reported to the police.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the budget as tabled, and believes that the department will note our concerns and act upon them to ensure better financial management and better service delivery.

 

The Finance MEC, Elzabe Rockman, in her budget speech said:  ‘the Department of Police, Roads and Transport is responsible for the construction and maintenance of our roads infrastructure in the Free State for enhanced economic activity.’

 

Let us take this responsibility seriously, and thereby contribute to job creation for our people.

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MEC Malakoane a major threat to the health of Free-Staters

Mariette Pittaway

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

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

Honourable Speaker,

 

I stood here nearly a year ago and opened my debate on Health with the words: The condition of the Health Department in the Free State is critical – it is in ICU.

 

Now, 9 months later, I can start this debate with the exact same words.

 

There has been no improvement in the Department of Health, in fact, the situation has only become worse.

 

Four weeks ago, GroundUp, an independent news reporting project who mainly report stories relevant to social justice, published a condemning exposé on the collapse of the public health system in the Free State.

 

This exposé corroborates what the DA has been saying for almost two years now.

 

The DA approached the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate the department last year and fought a long battle, spanning almost six months, for the department to be investigated.

 

The HRC have concluded its investigation and we are anxiously awaiting the outcome. We have received communication that the HRC investigation has been concluded and the report will be tabled soon.

 

Interestingly, both the National Departments of Labour and Public Service and Administration have investigated the Free State Department of Health and their respective reports will be tabled in Parliament shortly.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

I have accompanied the Portfolio Committee on oversight visits to hospitals.  It became very clear that these visits are “announced visits” and on the surface everything looks not too bad.

 

But as it is my right as a Member of the Free State Legislature, and also my duty to the voters, and as a result of the daily – and nightly – calls I get from desperate citizens pleading for the DA’s assistance, I did oversight visits on my own.

 

What I found in hospitals like Pelonomi is horrific.

 

One of the hospitals I visited, the Winburg Regional Hospital, situated along the N1 and N5, which caters mostly for casualties of motor vehicle accidents that take place on these routes, I found to be functional.

 

This hospital received accreditation by the Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA) in 2009.  The COHSASA accreditation, which states the Winburg Hospital renders quality health care, is an achievement for a hospital as small as this.

 

Great was my surprise when I was informed by the community and staff that this hospital was changed into a clinic a month ago.  Medical staff lost their jobs and this essential hospital, the only one next to the N1 between Kroonstad and Bloemfontein, no longer exists.

 

My concerns are:

 

  • When was this decided?
  • By whom was this decided?
  • What were the reasons for this decision?

 

One of the major problems within the provincial Department of Health is the appointment of cadres to the positions of hospital CEOs.  This contributes to the politicisation of the public health services in the province.

 

Free State hospitals used to be the best in the country and doctors felt privileged if they could find work in these institutions.

 

Why are our doctors now leaving the public service and why is it so difficult to find doctors that we must recruit them from Cuba?

 

During my visits doctors and nursing staff I spoke to complained about the circumstances under which they have to give medical treatment to the residents of our province. 

 

Dilapidated buildings, no hot water, constant shortages of consumables, shortages of basic medication, like antibiotics, deteriorating or outdated equipment, doctors don’t get promoted after training and serving the required time in government and no grade increases are given to Medical Officers, and the list goes on.

 

The gross mismanagement by MEC Malakoane contributes directly to the medical brain drain from the province, yet the Premier and the MEC blame medical professionals of having agendas and conspiracies seeking to undermine the provincial government.

 

It is in fact the provincial government that undermines the abilities of medical professionals to execute their tasks appropriately.

 

Is this the Cuban way?

 

Perhaps Premier Ace Magashule should recruit his next MEC for Health from Cuba.

 

Honourable Speaker

 

On my recent visit to Pelonomi, I had a complaint from a young woman who was in a car accident and had severe injuries.  The only pain medication she received was Panado.  I queried the nursing staff and was informed that it is all that was available. 

 

These are not stories that I imagine due to the psychosis the Honourable Malakoane diagnosed me with last year. These are cold hard facts that I see on a daily basis.

 

The supposed turnaround strategy tabled by MEC Malakoane has not yielded any positive results.

 

We maintain that it was merely an attempt to ‘keep-the-lights-on’ reworking of the budget.  It failed to address critical staff shortages, medicine and equipment shortages or the improvement of morale and I am still waiting to receive the promised turnaround strategy from the Department of Finance.

 

Both Premier Magashule and MEC Malakoane celebrate the appointment of doctors, nurses and specialists during the last financial year, but they fail to tell us exactly how many of these have since left the department’s employment.

 

In the Honourable Malakoane’s reply after these debates on Health, he can, like last year, use his entire allocated time, to the amusement of ANC members and the disgust of the public, to attack me personally, or he can admit that there is a serious problem in the Department of Health and explain to the people of this province what he is doing to ensure the turnaround of this critical department.

 

I will end my debate with the same words I did last year:

 

The DA believes that a caring government must ensure that accessible, affordable, high quality health care is available to every South African.

 

After all, Section 27(1) and (3) of the South African Constitution reads “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care; No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.”

 

The people of this province deserve better. Where the DA govern, we care for the wellbeing of all.

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