Gauteng Premier and Legislature should set savings example

Justus de Goede MPL

DA Gauteng spokesperson on the Oversight Committee on the Premier’s Office and Legislature

During yesterday’s medium term budget speech, finance minister Nhlanhla Nene made welcome references to changes in spending patterns of public funds, and the DA calls on Gauteng premier David Makhura to curb expenditure on nice-to-have items.

During his speech, Minister Nene committed to:

  • Cut-backs in peripheral spending on travel, subsistence, conferences and catering;
  • Capping expenditure on the use of consultants at 2014/15 levels; and
  • Establishing realistic public service remuneration levels.

While cynics will argue that we have been here before and that the country’s first citizen sets high standards in profligacy, the DA believes that much-publicized excessive spending has to be reined in.

So too do we believe that, in Gauteng, the Office of the Premier and the Legislature should demonstrate to taxpayers that they are serious about savings.

The Portfolio Committee which oversees these bodies has closely scrutinized their most recent annual reports, and posed pertinent questions over spending patterns on:

  • Subsistence and travel,
  • Lavish ceremonies such as the opening of the 5th Legislature; and
  • Expensive self-advertisement campaigns.

There is little doubt that more prudent and focused financial policies would yield gratifying results and, most importantly, set an example for all Provincial Departments and entities.

The moment is opportune for the premier to demonstrate his government’s commitment to prevent excessive spending.

Over to you, Honourable Premier

Langa Bodlani response to Department of Treasury Budget Speech

Langa Bodlani (MPL)

DA Limpopo Spokesperson for Treasury

Limpopo cannot be pariah province when it comes to matters of financial management.

Our recent history of plunging into a financial deficit should teach us what’s not to be done.

That we do not relapse into another financial mess, your department must take its rightful place as the centre of good financial management.

Cause if this department had initially played its rightful role in matters of financial management, our province would not have been so blighted by the recent financial mess.

Now that it is clear that some departments such as health, education and public works could not be salvaged even by section 100 (b) intervention, it now behoves this department to make sure that for this term things fall into place.

We cannot have a legacy such as the one of our immediate predecessors had.

The DA refuses to be part of that shameful history of our province.

The Department of Provincial Treasury is entrusted with the duty to rewrite that history.

As we debate this budget today, this department must be mindful of the legal powers it wields to make sure that this term of office leaves a better legacy for future governance of our province.

You are not short of the legal framework to make sure that as you rightfully play your transversal oversight role on other department that there is compliance with your orders.

The DA commends this department    in making sure that its own house is in order by making sure that it adheres to all the prescripts of prudent financial management.

This cannot be enough when we still have departments and municipalities which continue to drag us into the state of being a pariah province.

MEC your responsibilities extend to other departments, municipalities and state entities.

This responsibility is clearly defined for you in the constitution itself, the PFMA, the MFMA and other laws.

The MEC had better awaken to the power that his department wields.

Because through him insisting on good financial management can we all rest assured that the legacy we shall all leave when our term ends, will be a proud legacy.

Our predecessors cannot say as much.

The department of Treasury has the powers to insist that departments provide accurate financial records when they are required.

It has the powers to visit criminal sanctions on the accounting officers of belligerent departments.

This has not happened in the past.

As we pass this budget, we expect the use of these powers to be a norm rather than an exception.

In this way you will Honourable MEC be giving us all a proud legacy that we did not let governance fall asunder right under our noses.

In extreme cases Mr MEC you have powers to withhold your purse from recalcitrant organs of state.

All you need do is to muster the political will.

When law is on your side, temporary discomfort of falling out of favour with your comrades will not matter.

All conscientious public representatives will have the courage to support you.

Count on the DA’s support when you take unfashionable decisions to insist on good financial governance.

A lot is at stake,

Service delivery to our people is at stake,

Clean running water is at stake,

Medication in hospitals is at stake,

Houses for our people are at stake,

In essence honourable members, the legacy which is for all of us to leave will be at stake.

Jacques Smalle response to Department of Agriculture Budget Speech

Jacques Smalle (MPL)

DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Agriculture

The National Development plan argues that agriculture is the primary economic activity in rural areas and has the potential to create 1 million new jobs by 2030. This can be done if we expand our irrigated agriculture network, increase our commercial farms. Create policy certainty that will lead to increased food security levels and enhance our provincial rural development program that will create jobs.
This department must either decide if they want to align itself with the NDP or the Limpopo Employment Growth and development plan, which led to this department losing over 31000 jobs in the Agriculture sector last year.
This province was once known to be the fruit basket of South Africa, the land and its people are still here. With the right leadership and incentives that will lead to an increased commercial sector, will allow us to position the agriculture sector to align itself with the NDP in succeeding by creating 1 million new jobs and a healthy partnership between state and the Agriculture sector.
There is a greater need to invest in market linkages such a road and rail infrastructure, cold chain facilities and market information. Critical we need to find ways of providing tenure security for commercial farmers and investigate better ways of financing land reform so that new farmers do not become saddled with debt and whereby the exciting private sector can play an active role in assisting government to achieve its objective in creating a more inclusive, vibrant and commercialized agriculture sector.
It is time for a new vibrant and realistic approach to facilitate an approach whereby all stakeholders in the agriculture sector are consulted. This is how we will do it;
Improving Land Reform Processes:
• Increase the budget for land reform. With the current MTEF it will take 176 years to finalise all existing land claims.
• Distinguish between claimants wanting land for commercial production and those aiming at subsistence agriculture
• Ensure that adequate information on land reform is available to beneficiaries
• Devolve the job of finding and acquiring land to the private sector.
Providing proper support;
• Work with the Land Bank and commercial banks to develop more affordable financing options
• Develop a legislative framework to establish a special purpose vehicle to facilitate the land reform process. It is not just the role of government to effect land restitution. The private sector can play an important role to speed up the process and assist government to achieve its goals.
• Require agricultural extension agents serving commercial farmers to sign contracts with the farmers and base their payments on performance.
• Ensure that agricultural research bodies are properly funded and left to manage themselves.
Tenure reform;
• Conduct and inquiry into communal land rights in order to tackle long standing disputes and determine appropriate solutions.
• Introduce legislation for a fair and just communal land system.
The department of agriculture failed to achieve 25% of its planned targets.
The vacancy of critical posts within the department’s administration was problematic last year and the MEC cannot let this untenable situation continue. Inadequate skills, the loss of the HoD and CFO as well as critical vacancies in the M& E unit are of grave concern as it directly impacted in the increased number of non-compliance findings by the Auditor general.
The department incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R37, 3 million through non-compliance with SCM regulations.
Losing 31 000 jobs in the agriculture sector during the previous financial year one would expect that the MEC would have spend some more time in her speech on how the department will reposition itself to win back the lost job opportunities by crating even more opportunities.
The department has set a target to create 9000 work opportunities through enterprise development projects. This is an ambitious target since the department has not met its EPWP target for the last 2 years and there is already a clear indication by the department that this target will not be met.
The DA however warns that EPWP projects should not be utilised on private property like the Makgoba Tea Estate in Magoebaskloof and the Tshivhase tea estate in Vhembe, but rather on new job creation projects.
The department has budgeted R210 million for infrastructure inter alia for small holder & subsistence farmers. Most of these funds will be utilised to renovate existing infrastructure not utilised. It is unacceptable to renovate structures that have never been utilised and is tantamount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The department should strategise and only fund infrastructure on dedicated farming projects and put plans in place to safeguard existing unutilised projects against vandalism and looting or even be sold off to third parties.
We caution the MEC that the department’s programs should stop to bail out farmers. Programs of substance should exist and farmers should be come self sustaining.
A shocking example is the Makgoba Tea Estate owned by the Mamphoka-Makgoba Community Trust. The farm was purchased at a cost of R104 million as part of the province’s land restitution programme in 2006. The farms fell into a state of disrepair and valuable assets were removed. Later R50 million was pumped in an effort to rescue the situation. With an asset base of well over R121 million, the tea estate had a measly net profit of R80 in 2010.
With specific regard to this, the DA will sharpen its constitutionally mandated oversight role. We will hold the executive accountable for every cent spent belonging to the people of Limpopo.
The upgrading and re-opening of the two agricultural colleges Madzivhandila and Tompi Seleka is step in the right direction. 45238 Learners have enrolled for agricultural sciences grade 12 next year hence the need clearly exist for HET in agriculture in our province.
The department’s budget sees a baseline increase of 3, 9% of its mandate for the current budget which is totally inadequate to carry out its mandate in the current budget year.
Less of the budget must be spent on unsustainable projects and renovation of existing, non-functioning projects and more needs to go to projects whereby dedicated communities will benefit.
The DA however cannot support this budget as it is based not on agriculture as a primary, job creating, activity, but on the duplication of previous budgets where mediocre projects were funded and whereby individuals benefitted instead of all the people of Limpopo. It is also not realistic to expect that this budget will facilitate effective land reform in Limpopo.

Langa Bodlani response to Office of the Premier Budget Speech

Langa Bodlani (MPL)

DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Office of the Premier

This budget debate occurs in the context of the near collapse of the provincial government in the last term of office.

It is for this reason that the Democratic Alliance stands here today to emphasize the critical issue of good governance.

Your office is entrusted with the enormous responsibility of being exemplar to other departments on matters of governance.

Your duty is derived directly from the constitution when it says in section 125 that you must coordinate the functions of the provincial administration and its departments.

When things begin to go wrong in any department in the province, people have a right to look to the premier and ask what is the premier doing about it.

The Constitution enjoins us to want answers from the office of the premier.

If we are to avoid the happening of the last term, this office of the premier must be effective in its transversal coordinating role.

Failure to do that by the premier is a dereliction of his constitutional obligations.

This responsibility extends also to the functioning of the local government sphere.

It will therefore be an indictment on the office of the premier when departments of health, education, and public works continue to get worse audit opinions.

Do not turn a blind eye on these because if you do so you will not only be failing the Constitution but you will be failing the people of this province who are in dire need of services.

Your predecessor failed on this score, fortunately for him he got promoted to the national assembly.

You may not have the same fate.

But your name will go down the history books as being complicit in failing our people.

You dare not fail our people.

The DA will play a complimentary role every step of the way where you execute your mandate to improve the lives of our people.

Equally so Mr Premier we will be confrontational when you fail our people.

In this regard ours will be to offer practical alternatives to improve our people’s lives rather than the empty leftist shibboleths which have defined our latter day political discourse.

Just recently we tabled the AG report on the audit findings of our municipalities.

This too is your responsibility Mr Premier because you must coordinate provincial administration which includes local government.

To coordinate is not the same as usurpation and centralisation of powers in the office of the premier.

But it means that it must be source of concern for the premier when 7 municipalities fail to get their books audited.

In describing the failure of our municipalities, the AG attributes this to a lack of political will.

This falls squarely on your shoulders to drive that political will.

Mr Premier, it is for these reasons why we become concerned when your office presents to the committee an incomplete Annual Performance Plan.

It is a worrying concern when your office needs to be reminded by the committee that your role cuts across all other departments.

They simply failed to capture this important role in the APP.

When asked about the challenges they faced when implementing operation clean audit, they simply said and I quote “no challenges”.

How can that be when education, health and public works are perennial trouble makers?

Mr Premier do not simply strive to achieve clean audit as you put it in your speech.

Have the political will to crack the whip if necessary. In that way you will not share in the blame when things go wrong.

That we do not degenerate into what happened in the past, this office must be fully aware of its powers under the constitution and other laws.

In passing this budget we urge the office of the premier to be the epicentre of good governance in our province.

It must awaken to its own reach in terms of the existing laws.

Because when the office of the premier does this, our people will be better served through good governance.

“Claim no easy victories .… our work is far from over”

Jacques Smalle (MPL)

DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Coghsta

Note: Jacques Smalle response to Department of Coghsta Budget Speech

There is a saying that one should never tell any lies nor claim easy victories.

This resonates very well when we consider COGHSTA’s performance this past financial year and the MEC’s sentiments of her department being one of the best run departments in the province.

While the DA commends COGHSTA for accomplishing most of its targets, it’s the quality of service and output that leaves much to be desired.

An increase in departmental budget does not mean an increase in output nor the provision of quality services.

Lest we forget that the people of Limpopo are not fighting for ideas and goals in APP reports.

They are fighting for their right access basic services and to witness tangible improvements in their lives.

COGHSTA’s role is to ensure that municipalities deliver services that our people are constitutionally entitled to receive. It is to also ensure municipalities are responsive to the needs of their residents. It is to further ensure that they are accountable for their actions and, in some parts their, inaction.

In light of this, it is unacceptable that none of the municipalities in the province received a clean audit in the latest audit outcomes.

In addition to this,7 of our municipalities did not bother to meet the deadline to submit financial statements to the  Auditor General.

“tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”

While the ANC claims to have a good story to tell, the sad reality is that many citizens living in these municipalities have nothing good to tell about the services they receive.

Nothing underscores the ANC governments’ disregard to deliver services more than the millions surrendered to national treasury in the last financial year.

It is not a good story to tell that the department lost R117.6 million.

It is not a good story to tell that the municipalities under spent half a billion rands allocated to them.

It is not a good story to tell that unauthorized expenditure by municipalities over the last 3 years rose to R1.3 billion.

It is not a good story to tell that municipalities recorded irregular expenditure of R2.1billion.

It is not a good story to tell that municipalities squandered R76 million on fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“tell us no lies, claim no easy victories.”

Our municipal supply chain management is in tatters, the Auditor general found of the cases tested that 63% of the awards were made to employees and councillors or other state officials.

80% of the Municipal officials lacked the required skills to manage financial information
100% of the Municipal officials lacked the required skills to manage performance information.

Not one municipality in Limpopo has a clean record of delivering a continuous flow of clean, safe and potable water to residents.

It is embarrassing that just weeks after the uplifment of Sect 100 administration, the Minister of Water and Sanitation had to intervene on the water crisis in Giyani, Mopani District.

This is due to lack of support for municipalities. As a result of under spending, financial mismanagement and poor planning, the municipality is burdened with infrastructure backlogs.

For COGHSTA to regain the confidence and trust we once had in it, the MEC needs to develop a provincial wide plan for municipal support in basic service supply as many other municipalities in different areas in Limpopo also need water and sanitation.

You cannot be seen to hide behind Section 163 of the Constitution that on the one hand guaranteed the independence of local governments, with provincial government being given only a supporting, not interfering role.

The Provincial Lekgotla took a resolution (2012/13 financial year) that mayors and senior management must be responsible for non-improvement on the financial management issues, failing which there would be consequences such as having to vacate their positions .

If this administration is serious about tackling poverty and unemployment, it must be prepared to take the tough steps necessary to ensure that funds allocated to infrastructure development are rolled out on budget, on time and to specification.

It’s time to implement your executive resolution and place more municipalities under section 139 of the Constitution.

It’s time to fire accounting officers and accounting politicians who fail to do their jobs.

The fact that municipalities were unable to achieve clean audits despite having Resident Accountants, clearly demonstrate that our municipalities lack both political and administrative leadership they need to succeed.

You correctly stated in your budget vote that human settlements are at the centre of the work in your department.

Yet housing was the worst performing programme.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the programme under spent the total allocated budget by R382 million.

Even if the housing procurement process was halted due to irregularities, the onus was upon you to ensure full Supply Chain Management Compliance in the first place.
Even if there were illegal activities. Instead, the Department took nine months to conduct investigations which has resulted in 12000 houses not being built.

“tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”

The DA appreciates COGHSTA’s eagerness to build 10 500 houses in the current financial year to make up for lost time, but this is not enough to meet the current demand.

It is the DA’s submission that this government needs to accept that rushing through housing projects simply cannot address the demands.

As such, this department should focus more attention to upgrading the provision of services, such as clean water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal of already established informal settlements, as well as rectifying 1822 housing units that still need to be fixed.

To improve people’s living standards, this department also needs to improve performance on its mandate of Disaster Management.

From the department’s apparent failure to appropriately address disaster management in its APP, and during its budget vote presentation, it would appear that the cessation of the conditional grant for Disaster Management has been accompanied by a pause in the progress of this important mandate.

In a reply by the National Minister the DA has discovered that none of  Limpopo’s local municipalities  comply with the South African National Standard (SANS) 10090 in that a majority of them have fewer than two personnel for Community Protection Against Fire, which is the primary barometer used by municipalities to measure performance of fire services.

Section 29 of the Disaster Management Act of 2002, mandates all provinces to establish disaster management centres. In the Limpopo, such a centre is of critical importance, as disasters such as droughts, floods and fires are familiar events.

The DA has proven everywhere it governs that running an efficient and effective province is not rocket science. It is about getting the basics right: Visionary and responsible political leadership, the appointment of the right person for the job, sound financial management and outcomes driven delivery targets coupled with the political will to put the interests of residents first. And it can be done. The best way to achieve this, Honourable MEC, is to “tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”

DA committed to helping provide workable healthcare solutions in KZN

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

South Africa, together with other member states, has acknowledged resolution A/66/L.1 of the UN General Assembly that Non Communicable Diseases are not merely a health concern but a major developmental problem.

These diseases include but are not limited to Cancer, Diabetes, Chronic Lung disease, Mental Disease.  Some may include Vaccine preventable diseases and even drug or substance abuse which deserves special mention.

While South Africa is seen as a leader in some areas such as legislation that has reduced smoking, restrictions on alcohol advertising and proposals to reduce salt intake, there remains several major challenges.  These include the drug scourge which is gaining traction and high levels of alcohol consumption which result in liver disease, birth defects, accident-related deaths and injury, injuries and murder related to domestic violence, rape and abuse of children.  These no doubt fuel the burden on an already sick healthcare system in KZN.

The proposed way forward generally refers to government setting targets to reduce mortality from these NCD’s. We need to seriously consider the discipline of preventive medicine in any paradigm shift that we may plan as we move forward. Importantly we need to seriously question and reconsider how this will be accomplished and very importantly how this will be paid for.

HPV is a communicable disease.  It is also a vaccine preventable disease to a great extent. Questions put to the KZN Health ministry, regarding the top five cancers treated at Addington included cancers of the Cervix and Vulva in Gynae and The Anus in GIT Cancers.  HPV has been implicated in other cancers such as the throat as well.  There is an intention to roll out this vaccine.  Concerning is the aggressiveness of infection in co-infected HIV patients. The funding module to cater for an undoubted increase in people requiring treatment must be put under the microscope to scrutinise the vastness and extent to which the programme will have to be delivered.

HIV remains an overarching healthcare issue with a prevalence of around 16% [15-49yrs] overall in the republic, as cited in some reports.  However, in KZN, figures of approximately 30% as well as the figure in pregnant women reported in one study, as one of the highest in the country, is of overwhelming concern.  The prevalence rate of HIV in the WC is reported at around 8%.  Ongoing VCT is taking place.  HIV positive patients screened and found to have a CD4 count of <500 will have to be started on treatment.

The co-infection, in HIV, with TB as well as other opportunistic diseases is massively problematic and TB prevalence on its own remains disturbing in this province. XDR and MDR TB still remain a treat even if no recent outbreaks have been reported.  While R150 million more has been earmarked for the 2014/15 financial year, it is nowhere near what is needed.

Starting patients on ARV treatment sooner from January 2015 and  starting HIV positive pregnant women on the WHO’s option B+ as opposed to the current option B, will not only require careful budgetary planning in this area that is not seen now. It will also require going back to the drawing board of this budgetary area.

There is talk of building a factory to make cheaper ARV’s.  I wonder what local manufacturers must be thinking of the future of their business environment in SA as well as any prospective foreign investors and entrepreneurs.

The reality is that we are nowhere near achieving the MDG 6 in KZN.  This covers the worrying areas of HIV and TB, which have a direct impact on MDG 4 and 5.

An important indicator of the state of the provincial health system is Childhood Mortality.

I quote from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Country Report 2013 on South Africa: “The level of childhood mortality is a reflection of a country’s health status in general and, specifically, of the health status of children in a country. It is also a reflection of the quality and efficiency of the health system operating in a particular country. “

In light of this, the 20% increase in childhood mortality in KwaZulu-Natal in 2013 is an indictment on the health department. We must question if this rise is due to lack of political will, hopeless management or a crumbling provincial health system. It is most likely a combination of all three. The DA believes that the KZN Department of Health is failing the most vulnerable in our society;

–          Most recently, we learnt of a contaminated NICU

–          We learned of a broken ventilator at a hospital with astonishingly only two in a busy NICU

–          The Women and Child Hospital in Newcastle was only recently graced with the services of a specialist paediatrician

–          A child died because an ambulance arrived too late

–          There was a national crisis of the polio vaccine shortage – putting an entire population at risk

–          We see no intake of registrars and closing of nursing colleges

–          We see 40 Obstetric Ambulances in KZN with around 5 in Newcastle as an example.  With broken down vehicles they often end up responding to other cases which puts complicated obstetric emergencies at great risk.

–          We see that maternal mortality remains high and litigation against the department of some R4billion – almost double of some R2billion in the last financial year – and mostly attributed to botched Obstetrics and Gynaecology. I’m sure the Honourable MEC is aware of the important 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which has linked long working hours and occupational stresses to professional burn-out in doctors. There is also extensive literature linking burn-outs to increased medical litigation

–          We know of a busy central city hospital where the theatres have been condemned for years and where no emergency caesarean sections can be performed even with a very busy delivery ward. The lifts are broken and the money to ensure they are fixed has dried up.

This last hospital referred to is the same hospital designated for the management of Ebola in KZN should it ever reach our shores.

These areas all need urgent, quality and honest intervention.  All levels of services must be held accountable including the executive.

EMRS in KZN falls far short of the norms and standards required.  Several vehicles are always in the sick bay.  Others are written off.  Based on the population size alone we need just over a thousand vehicles of various sorts and in my view excluding patient transport vehicles – the bus types.  Given the topography of the province, the lack of road infrastructure and distances needed to travel, we may well need three times the number of vehicles.  Not to mention personnel and expenses to run this vital live saving machine.

Has the department properly factored this into adequate financial and forward planning or are we just looking to hobble along and see what happens next?

The decision to close nursing schools – and then complain about the shortage of primary healthcare nurses or nurses in other specialities – is yet another anomaly.  What the provincial government and the health department are doing is effectively destroying the foundation of primary healthcare with this move.

Passing the buck onto the department of higher education when it comes to the training of registrars is amiss.  This not only diminishes the vital service they provide but will obliterate it.  Again, in tightening the belt, this House will be supporting the dismantling one of the world’s best training programmes of specialists, to the provinces own discredit.

The DA does, however, welcome the establishment of the private medical school in Newcastle after years of calling for such a facility. This will not only relieve the capacity shortages at government medical schools but help increase economic growth and academic research in KwaZulu-Natal. We hope this is the start of a positive trend to relieve doctor shortages in the province.

The disaster with the NHLS continues to strain other vital services. Symptomatic again of what bad management does.  Though down to R541million, this is not something to be proud off.  It must be ensured that such financial plane crashes that so critically impact healthcare service delivery is properly managed.  And if it can’t we must see heads roll.

Staff expenditure within the department is sitting at an all-time high.  The impact: less for actual, real service delivery issues.

The equitable baseline cuts, already mentioned in the summations on the provincial budget and the knock-on effect will be hardest on health in my view.  Indeed this is something the province can’t afford.

Then we come to the unlegislated mandate at which billions are thrown nationally.  No doubt KZN gets its share:  NHI.  The DA believes in equal access to all facilities, a national minimum standard of healthcare, maintenance and upgrading of current infrastructure, ongoing development in this area.  But there is a need to desist from painting a picture that this will resemble or work like the current private healthcare sector.

Honourable MEC, the Democratic Alliance is a proactive party. Let us try to help solve the problems for the benefit of medical personnel and our communities.

As the Official Opposition, the DA will hold the MEC to account for his actions while providing workable solutions to improve healthcare.

Budget Debate: Agriculture, Rural Development, Land Administration and Environmental Affairs

Bosman Grobler MPL

Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land Administration and Environmental Affairs

Note: The following Debate was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by Bosman Grobler MPL provincial spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land Administration and Environmental Affairs during the debate on the Budget of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Land Administration and Environmental Affairs.

In the words of John Salazar, “I have always said there is only one thing that can bring our nation down – our dependence on foreign countries for food and energy. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy.”

Hon. Speaker, with that said, the department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs now commands a budget of over a billion rand. One would expect sound financial management from the department in control of such a huge budget, but sadly, as in most other departments, this is not the case. As the Democratic Alliance we can only plead to the ANC government to sort out the internal greed, and start with the fostering of the political will to make departments like agriculture work.

Hon. MEC, in your APP, the department states that in this financial year, the department will prioritize the upscaling of Masibuyele Emasimini and Asibuyele Esibayeni programmes.

How is the department going to upscale these projects when programme 3, received R 26 million less, than it did in the previous financial year. With less funds than in the past, the department plans to do more than in the past.

Instead of conducting sound financial management, this department has instead decided to allocate 45.47% of its budget, towards compensation of employees. That’s almost half a billion rand just on salaries. No, that just doesn’t sound right, that can’t be right.

While the department is busy channelling funds to their employees, they remain mum on the progress regarding the Fresh Produce Market.

We have been hearing the promise of this market for years now, but still there is no sign of the project being implemented. Hon. Members, the proper establishment of this project holds great economic potential for the province, and it is of high concern that the department chose to work with the worst government parastatal in the establishment of this market. Hon. MEC, your department needs to distance this project from MEGA, or at least explain the different roles that your department and MEGA will be playing in this project.

  • Ongelukkig is MEGA nie die enigste struikelblok in die vooruitgang van Department Landbou nie.
  • Die totale afwesigheid van kwaliteit mentorskap vir opkomende boere is nog ‘n hindernis.
  • Die korrupsie in Gemeenskaplike Grondeienaars Assosiasies dra by tot enorme kommer.
  • Die feit dat verhoudings met georganiseerde landbou nie geprioritiseer word nie is ‘n problem, en
  • Die warm patat van gemeenskplike land en grondeienaarskap is ook nog daar.
  • Daar is nog vele elemente wat dryfsand vir die department kan wees, maar dit daar gelaat.

Die department moet dit werklik ‘n prioriteit maak om opkomende boere te ondersteun. Statistieke wys dat kommersiele boere in Suid-Afrika verminder het vanaf 100 000 tot a skamele 36 000, in die afgelope 15 jaar het. Hierdie dalende kurwe moet stop. Kommersiele boerderye is die anker van voedel sekuriteit in Suid-Afrika. Elke lid van hierdie wetgewer kan terdeë die volgende feit  bepeins. “Indien jy geëet het vanoggend: Bedank die plaaseienaar en die plaaswerker”

Die Department sal ook spoedig moet kyk na die doen en late van (GGA’s) Gemeenskaplike Grondeienaars Assosiasies. Daar is talle van korrupsie, waar die lede van ‘n GGA nie bestendig bepaal kan word nie, en lidmaatskap baie likuut is. Die slegste nuus is dat daar gevalle is waar bemiddelaars wat deur die department gestuur is om die situasie te beredder, dit juis uitbyt, om self munt daaruit te slaan.

Now, the issue of land. And let us be clear on this issue. The DA supports the distribution of land to emerging farmers as well as compensating people for land they have been forcefully removed from, by the Apartheid government. But there should be a clear distinction between land used for the production of food, and residential land.

Onto the issue. In 20 years off this administration. The department has failed to conduct a comprehensive land audit. Such an audit would seek to find out how much land is in the hands of South Africans, (and what race they are) foreigners, and government. It’s quite baffling to think that this administration has been developing policies on land reform, yet have no idea what the status quo is. In order for one to reach desired targets, one needs to collect data, analyse that data and create a picture about the present. Only once that is done, one can develop a strategy to reach the set objectives.

Hon. Speaker, this department has a long list of issues that have continued to plague political head after political head. The DA is here to assist in any way possible, but the road towards improvement starts internally. The department needs to practise efficient financial management and capacitate their operations with individuals who have the relevant skills and knowledge, to not only implement the various strategies, but also to monitor and evaluate continuous progress.

Budget vote speech: Health

Jane Sithole MPL

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Health

Note: The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by Jane Sithole MPL the DA’s Provincial Spokesperson on Health during the budget vote debate on Health.

Hon. Speaker, this country has the best Health Minister we have ever seen in our history, Dr. Aron Motsoaledi, yet the Mpumalanga health department is letting him down in every sense.

On 30 October 2012 the DA requested the SAHRC to investigate the poor state of the province’s hospitals and clinics, and we all know what the report said, which off course vindicated the DA.

The HRC’s findings did not come as a surprise, as the DA has for many years warned that the continued mismanagement, maladministration, centralised procurement and poor leadership would cause the complete collapse of public health care in this province.

Premier visited provincial hospitals on a tour in 2012, on another fact finding mission, He was supposed to take action when he saw first-hand the terrible state of Mpumalanga’s hospitals. But, he chose not to.

The after effects of former HOD Richard Mnisi will be felt in this department for many many years to come.

  • The DA requested for Mr Mnisi to appear before the portfolio committee to account for the financial mismanagement of the department’s funds to no avail.
  • Once again, the DA is calling on the new Chairperson of the portfolio on health and social development, Hon. Ngobeni to summon Mr Mnisi before the

portfolio committee to explain the financial mismanagement that took place during his term as HOD.

Again In January 2014, The DA pleaded with the Premier to take action and once again reiterated that the health department is on the verge of disaster, but this administration denied that the health department is near collapse.   Look where we are today?

Hon. Speaker, we all know that the University of Mpumalanga is in the pipeline, and we all support that, however, right now as we speak, this Province hasn’t paid the University of Pretoria since last year June, this is going to have dire consequences for this Province when the University of Pretoria withdraws

from Mpumalanga. The province will immediately lose the benefit of having specialists.  Hon. Speaker, that contract was last signed in 2002 when former Hon. Manana was MEC for health.

Cost curtailments have been put in place to assist with the pressures on the budget caused by the mismanagement of the department finances in the previous financial year, however the department has allowed for R84.9 Million to be used for bonuses.

With a department under curatorship, the department could employ approximately 353 doctors or 700 nurses. Severe Staff Shortages continues to hamper service delivery in our hospitals and it doesn’t look its going to get better any time soon.

The department has increased the budget for EMS by 25.2%, this might seem excessive and it might be a bit adventurous for the department to handle as thus far, the department managed to bring EMS practically to its knees. EMS is sitting on a whopping vacancy rate of 81%.

Hon. Speaker, with the amount of vehicle accidents currently taking place on our roads, it is a scary thought to know that the people on the roads of Mpumalanga whether a driver, passenger or pedestrians chances of survival are rapidly diminishing with the current ANC Led Government on the wheel.

The DA recognises that government has an important function in guaranteeing the overall effectiveness of the health system in Mpumalanga and welcome the establishment of the forum of Hospital CEO’s, hoping this forum will be used to detect problems early and mitigate those problems, also to track on deliverables on a monthly basis.

We have enough facts on the table, we know what is wrong with this department, it’s time for action.  The people of Mpumalanga don’t want to hear stories anymore, time for action is now.  One more loss of life that could have been prevented is one too many!

Budget vote speech: Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)

Bosman Grobler MPL

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)

Note: The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA’s Provincial Spokesperson on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) during the budget vote debate on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA).

Hon Speaker

Hon Members

It is common cause the local government is the coal face of service delivery in the lives of ordinary South Africans. It is here where the perceptions of citizens regarding government delivery is formed and it is at local level that residents get angry most often at the ANC’s slacked attitude towards improving conditions within communities.

Over the past few years our province has witnessed an escalation of service delivery protests (some violent) as a result of governments delivery failure. It is most telling Hon Speaker, that while many ANC members will today stand before this house singing the praises of the MEC and the ANC government, when many of these very members raised concern during the committee deliberations about how municipal delivery failures was making it extremely difficult for the ANC to canvass votes in communities, which is evident Hon Speaker by the over 61000 voters who have abandoned the ANC since 2009.

Hon Speaker, no matter how we look at it, municipal governance in our province is in a state of crisis. Across the province, once flourishing towns are deteriorating to the point of collapse.

The examples of poor performance in local government is ample. Just to name a few:

  • Three municipalities in Mpumalanga are amongst Eskom’s top 7 debtors. Lekwa municipality owes Eskom R140 million, Thaba Chweu owes R185 million and Emalahleni owes a whopping R300 million. This fact alone points to the extent to which the ANC government section 139 interventions have failed. All three these municipalities have been or are under administration.
  • Despite being under administration three times, Thaba Chweu municipality remains financially unviable, infrastructure is collapsing and the municipality is unable to deliver the most basic of services.
  • The ability to deliver clean potable water is set to become a massive humanitarian crisis in this province and urgent action is required. There is not one municipality in Mpumalanga, including the ANC’s so-called flag-ship municipality in Steve Tshwete, which has a clean record of delivering a continuous flow of clean, safe and potable water to residents. Lekwa municipality is currently facing a massive water crisis and the water nightmare of Msukaligwa, Emalahleni, Albert Luthuli and Bushbuckridge has been widely reported and documented.
  • The inability of municipalities to bring about a better life for residents is exacerbated by the repeated appointment of incompetent and unsuitably qualified officials. It is a disgrace that throughout all municipalities in Mpumalanga only two Municipal Managers and three CFO’s comply with the National treasury minimum competency guidelines. Hon Speaker it is time the ANC realises that our municipalities are not an employment agency for ANC comrades.

Hon Speaker, Hon MEC

Running an efficient and effective municipality is not rocket science. It is about getting the basics right: Visionary and responsible political leadership,

the appointment of the right person for the job, sound financial management and outcomes driven delivery targets coupled with the political will to put

the interests of residents first. And it can be done, the DA has proven this everywhere where we govern.

But the truth is Hon Speaker, under the ANC the situation will not improve. The reason for this is ARROGANCE. Despite all the evidence indicative of an

imminent governance crisis, the ANC is obsessed to stand here and say: “We have a good story to tell”; “Look at the progress we have made”., all the

while burying their heads in the sands to the realities that surround us.

Hon Speaker, the best advice I can give the ANC, is by means of the old saying: “A new broom sweeps clean”.

The MEC has an opportunity to use her newly bestowed mandate to turn our ailing municipalities around. Through executing your department’s mandate

of supporting and guiding municipalities, you must ensure that people employed in the administration of municipalities are competent, willing and able to

do the jobs they have been appointed to do.

Hon Speaker, it is the lives of our provinces people that must come first. A renewed commitment to that better life to which we all yearn must come first,

and not the selfish interest of individuals, the ANC or any other tender seeking fat cats.

We can and must make local government in Mpumalanga work.

I thank you.

Gauteng Health still suffers from corruption disaster under Hlongwa

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

Summary extract of speech by Jack Bloom MPL in debate on the Gauteng Health budget in the Gauteng Legislature on 29 July 2014

Madam Speaker, there have been eight changes in Health MEC since 1994, five of them in the last six years.

We keep hearing about a turnaround plan, but the same problems persist.

On 23 October 2009 the Star reported: “Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has a plan of action for getting her financially disastrous department on track …(she) … committed herself to her turnaround plan.”

The first mention of a turnaround plan was in 2008 under MEC Brian Hlongwa. The company that was to execute this turnaround was 3P Consulting, and we all know what a disaster that was. They are currently subject to an asset forfeiture application, and all the allegations about bribes and corruption will be tested in a court of law.

I give MEC Mahlangu the credit for pulling the plug on 3P, and for instituting the investigation that got the Hawks and Special Investigating Unit involved.

But this department still suffers from the loosening of financial controls that happened during the Hlongwa years.

As I pointed out at the time, it was clearly irregular that a 3P employee was the acting Chief Financial Officer for an extended period of time.

The backlog in payments to suppliers also started at this time.

This was so bad that other departments had to surrender funds to keep the department afloat, but this has still not eliminated the arrears.

At the end of the last financial year, R1.488 billion was still outstanding to health suppliers.

The department now claims that 75% of suppliers are paid within 30 days, but this is still unsatisfactory.

Non-payments are a major reason for shortages in our hospitals, and breakdown of machines due to lack of maintenance.

Budgetary controls have been broken for a long time. There is an established trend of large underspends in certain programmes, and overspends in others.

I have little confidence that the budget before us will be adhered to.

Last year’s budget failed to spend a whopping R1.355 billion.

The underspend would have been higher but was partly offset by overspending of R357 million on the four academic hospitals.

The biggest failure was in capital spending, where R769 million for hospital building repair and machinery and equipment was unspent.

It is frankly unbelievable that the department was unable to spend this money when many of our hospitals are falling apart and desperately in need of repair.

Even worse, the department is happy that the infrastructure budget declines in the next three years, from R1.75 billion to R1.19 billion, because it is unable to spend a larger amount.

We have been told that infrastructure grants decline because the new approach to prevent underspending is to only apply for approved and ready projects.

What this means is that we lose out on money because of this department’s incompetence.

With all this turning around it seems that we have come full circle and are back where we started.

It is absolutely essential that we have a computerised Health Information System so that we can spend money most efficiently and streamline patient administration.

The sooner paper files are replaced with electronic records the better. This is another area where progress is stalled because of disputed contracts from the 3P era.

The department is currently in arbitration with the Baoki consortium after its R1.2 billion Health Information System contract was cancelled.

There is now an asset forfeiture application against Baoki. If it is proved that this was a corrupt contract, the department can then proceed with the Health Information System that we so desperately need, but this could still take years.

Madam Speaker, the budget this year is R31.5 billion, which is 12.6% larger than last year.

Key problem areas include:

  • Emergency management remains a disgrace. We need 800 ambulances, but only have 428, and many of these are more in the workshop than on the road.
  • We should have 944 000 HIV/Aids patients receiving ARV treatment, but there are only 592 000 registered. We have lost about 350 000 patients that we can’t track.
  • The five state laundries operate at less than 40% capacity, and there are frequent linen shortages in hospitals.
  • The Folateng wards should be closed as soon as possible. My estimate is that they have lost more than R500 million over the last ten years, including capital costs.
  • Medicine shortages are still happening, including vital anti-cancer drugs.
  • I am alarmed by the current contingent liability of a stupendous R5.78 billion due to 1458 medico-legal cases.
  • We are not spending nearly enough on training skilled staff – the training budget decreases by 2.4%, which is very disturbing.

Madam Speaker, the DA will oppose the transfer of our four academic hospitals to the national health ministry.

The better idea is to turn these hospitals into non-profit organisations free of stifling civil service regulations. They should be given a budget and have to perform to specific outcomes in providing quality treatment.

I am very much in favour of the lean management approach which has had a successful trial at the Kalafong hospital in reducing medicine queues and waiting times.

We need smart management and innovation so as to do more with less.

It is with a heavy heart that we will once again oppose the health budget as it will not meet the health needs of the people of this province.

I hope that there is better news next year, as the failed promises cause misery, pain and shortened lives.