Budget Debate on Premier’s Office Budget Vote Northern Cape Provincial Legislature

Independent Democrats:  Hon. Harold McGluwa, ID MPL DA Provincial Chairperson

Honourable Deputy Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable MECs, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good leaders are those who understand the value of individual liberty and economic freedoms for citizens in society. It is these leaders who lead provinces that create wealth, prosperity and economic growth for all.

Effective political leaders ensure individuals live in an open opportunity society.

There are six key components of an Open Society:

1. A constitution that enshrines the rule of law, individual rights and freedoms, and the separation of powers.

2. Transparency and accountability, without which governments abuse their power and compromise the freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

3. Security of person and property.

4. An independent and free-thinking civil society, including a free and independent media. There must also be an independent political opposition that is loyal to the constitutional order.

5. A general tolerance of difference on the part of the population.

6. An economy that is characterized primarily by the free choices of individuals.

All six aspects of an open society are the primary responsibility of a Premier to lead in government. These are the values to which we hold this administration accountable.

A strong and dedicated Office of the Premier can build an efficient, transparent, responsive and corrupt-free government.

Hon. Deputy Speaker the Office of the Premier has had a rough year indeed.

The illness of the previous Premier, Mme Hazel Jenkins, in 2012 was a sad time. We are glad to hear that she is recovering at home with family around her.

However Deputy Speaker, the Office of the Premier has been done a great disservice since then.

The appointment of subsequent Acting Premier has been disappointing. We have gone through a confusing period in which there was effectively little leadership.

The lack of leadership as a result of the instability had terrible consequence. We could see this during some of the scandals which occurred in the province. For example;

  • The Department of Health and Public Works, have still not resolved the crises of the Mental Hospital, and this after hundreds of millions of rands have gone into this project.
  • There was a lack of leadership for months of political chaos which affected the schooling of learners in Oliphantshoek.
  • There was chaos as the school learner transport services collapsed in some parts of the province under the watch eye of the Transport, Safety & Liaison department.
  • We have a situation of MEC’s, Senior Managers and officials in

this government facing serious charges, and yet the Premiers Office has shown no leadership in this regard and no action was taken from the Acting Premiers Office.

Hon. Deputy Speaker in reality, it is not all doom and gloom. The current Budget and Annual Performance Plan holds some really good intervention and priorities.

We welcome the outlook of the department for the 2013/14 financial year. There are three proposed interventions which we seek to welcome the most;

1. The Premier and her DG’s undertaking to make inputs and contributions in various platforms to ensure the success of the project to establish a university.

2. The allocating of the Provincial Aids Council under the Premiers office, and the work done to capacitate it, are commendable.

3. The development of a province-wide Human Resource Development strategy.

Indeed the breakdown of the budget makes for interesting reading.

The Budget

The Department has received just over R167-million (R167 828 000) in 2013/14.

The source of the funding is the Equitable Share, and receives no Conditional Grants.

The Department collects a series of receipts, mainly f rom PERSAL related transactions, and other transactions, totalling R200 000.

The ID notes that the portion from the equitable share increased by

R7.3 million or 4.3% from the previous financial year. However this is below the inflation rate of 5.9%.

In fact, the Departments entire budget is 1.6% less than the previous year due to inflation. This is concerning, and in reality it means less is being spent on service delivery.

On Service Delivery

Hon. Deputy Speaker on issues of service delivery, allow me to present four challenges the Premiers Office faces. These challenges are not adequately addressed by the current Budget and APP, and in some cases not addressed at all;

1. Corruption, Fraud & Maladministration: The Premiers Office has

poorly detailed how her Budget will address the concerns raised by the Auditor-General in his Briefing to Legislature on 2011/12 audit outcomes.

2. A Bloated Department: The ID is concerned that the Premiers

Office is spending more on salaries and less on actual service delivery.

In fact, the compensation of wages and employees consumes a staggering 60.7% of the Departments entire budget. This is dangerous levels, and suggests that actual expenditure of providing services is a mere 39.3% of the total budget.

Hon. Deputy Speaker simply put, for every R10 spent by the Premier, only R3.93c is spent on providing some sort of service to the public!

3. Marginalised & Vulnerable Groups: It is concerning that the

Special Programmes sub-programme in the Department is getting a 27.4% spending cut. This sub-programme attends to the needs of women, children & people with disabilities in the province.

4. Lack of Innovation: The Premiers Office has no structures which

deal with ensuring continuous learning and innovation throughout the provincial government.

Hon Deputy Speaker we believe that there are alternatives and better ways in which to allocate this budget. Let me share just three suggestions.

1. Establishing a Corporate Assurance Programme: This is a

dedicated programme made up of Enterprise Risk Management, a Forensic Investigative Unit, Internal Audit, Legal Services and Corporate Communications sub-programmes.

2. Human Resource Information Systems: To monitor personnel numbers

in all government departments, and ensure that the wage bill does not cripple service delivery.

3. Establish a Centre for e-Innovation: This will transform the

provincial government into an efficient 21st century service provider by integrating government services through broadband ICT across the province.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion Hon. Deputy Speaker, I’m of the view that the new Premier, Hon. Lucas, has her job cut out for her. We wish her well, and would encourage her to consider the recommendation and ideas we have shared here today. After-all, achieving an open opportunity society for all is always done, BETTER TOGETHER!

KZN Legislature – Debate on Provincial Treasury Budget

Tom Stokes, MPP

Member of the DA Caucus in the KZN Legislature

The sinking of the Titanic is a story of tragic complacency and the inability to change course quickly enough – a wonderful comparative to our current government.  The Titanic didn’t crash into the iceberg because it was a stormy night and they didn’t see the iceberg approaching.  It crashed because they didn’t take heed of the warnings of imminent danger, and once they acknowledged the danger, were unable to turn the ship away from the danger before them.

Here in this House, month after month, opposition members have warned of the dangers of poor education, poor health services, desperately poor municipal management, misuse of funds etc. To do justice to certain members of the ruling party, these issues have been acknowledged and some worthwhile and effective initiatives have been undertaken. But the fact remains that as a whole, the ship hasn’t turned fast enough and four years, which should have been used to address our challenges with the revolutionary zeal needed, have been wasted.

And the Treasury is partly to blame.

There are three aspects to the mission statement of the Treasury:

  • To ensure equitable resource allocation to departments
  • To monitor government expenditure and revenue
  • To instill prudential management and good governance

The first is a political mandate and the latter two are audit-related.

As MPL’s we have the dual role of oversight of the use of taxpayers’ money as well as the political input on the allocation of funds against programmes.

The DA has little complaint about the way the Treasury conducts its audit functions, and we have consistently praised MEC Cronje on her competence and that of her Department.

It is with the first aspect, “the equitable resource allocation” that we have a problem. The fact exists that this aspect is carried out without any input from this House. In other words, the prime political function is the exclusive purview of the treasury and executive, without multi-party political interrogation. All we do is debate the divisions within department budgets after the total divisions of revenue has already been done.

Both Hon. Ntombela and Hon. Scott in the General Budget Debate have raised issues that for the past four years have been driven by DA members: the inadequate funding allocation to education and health, and the questionable efficiencies of our public entities. But they both also turn away from discussing the options open to this House and instead turn to an external body to provide solutions. The lack of an in-House forum to examine political solutions to these kinds of financial flaws is problematic.

This is the same debate that took part at the ANC’s Polokwane conference and despite Trevor Manuel’s resistance, the conference decided to establish a parliamentary Allocation of Funds Committee at National level to augment the treasury committee.

Madame Speaker – and I refer to you here particularly, the opportunity to executive and treasury decision on allocation of funds does not exist at present, and we implore you to address this blind spot in our legislative structure.

The DA does not believe we have the best spread of money across departments.  Consequently, we do not believe that the political machinery designed to address the challenges of our Province is inadequate. We seem to be caught in a spending paradigm determined by previous years’ spending patterns and a ponderous imbedded organogram. Unfortunately this set-up drives our political ship inexorably towards the icebergs of unemployment, poverty, dysfunctional schools and municipalities and the rest of the challenges endlessly delineated in our speeches.

The DA is, however, encouraged that the NDP has at last gained general acceptance in the ruling party. It is a good document and provides a clear blueprint for the path ahead. What we lack though in this House, under the Treasury debate, is the space to debate the allocation of funds to departments in a structure similar to the National Allocation of Funds Committee. It is here that our debates should centre, where we measure the alignment of our proposed programmes to the NDP and the PDP and the adequacy of allocated funding, rather than the audit details of budget line items.

COGHSTA Budget Vote Debate

Andrew Louw, MPL

Northern Cape Provincial Legislature

Hon. Speaker, Hon. Premier, Hon. MEC’s, Hon. Members, guests in the gallery

The Democratic Alliance acknowledges that this department successfully moved from a qualified audit opinion to an unqualified finding with matters in the 2011/2012 financial year. This is, however, a bitter-sweet pill to swallow considering that it was the former HOD, who has now been removed from her post, who was largely responsible for the department’s improved audit outcome. It was also the former HOD who spoke out on controversial matters, such as the government contract with Lefatshe Technologies. As such, her questionable removal places a dark cloud over the motives of this department. At the same time, the now vacant HOD post, and the resultant absence of strategic leadership within this department, raises red flags around COGHSTA’s ability to effectively deal with its growing list of backlogs in the new financial year.

Hon. Speaker, these include backlogs in respect of departmental mandates, backlogs in housing and, above all, backlogs in local government:

Let me start with backlog 1, namely Disaster Management:

The DA notes that this department has redirected funding to make provision for firefighting and the National Emergency Alarm Radio. This is good. But, in the bigger scheme of things, is it not a case of the tail wagging the dog?

Hon. Speaker, in 2009, it came to light that all provinces, except for the Northern Cape, had established disaster management centres. Four years down the line, nothing has changed, and the department is still only talking about finalizing the provincial disaster management framework.

This is in clear contravention of section 29 of the Disaster Management Act of 2002, which mandates all provinces to establish disaster management centers. This is important, because disasters such as droughts, floods and fires are familiar events in the Northern Cape. Hon. Speaker, we want to know from the MEC, whether the havoc and devastation caused by past disasters, such as the floods of 2011, is not enough motivation to compel this department to complete the necessary planning and to set up the required disaster management center?

Now on to backlog 2, relating to housing:

The backlog of housing in the province has grown from 48 000 in 2011 to over 53 000 in 2013. In contrast, the department only has the funds to construct about 3500 housing units this year. At the same time, the housing grant for the Northern Cape is set to decrease significantly over the remainder of the MTEF, meaning that output in the years ahead can be expected to dwindle.

Hon. Speaker, this is proof thereof that the current housing delivery model cannot address the current and future need for housing, as the growing demand continues to exceed supply. In other words, the current provision of housing by government is simply not sustainable.

Against this backdrop, it is worrying that COGHSTA has chosen to be remain quiet about its role in reaching nationally prescribed outcomes, such as the provision of accommodation units within the gap market, for people earning between R3 500 and R12  800. It is also worrying that all hopes of this department providing affordable rental delivery, appear to rest on the completion of a single development, namely Lerato Park.

Hon. Speaker, it is the DA’s view that this department should place greater emphasis on providing rental, institutional and GAP market housing, as well as leveraging private funding in the low income and affordable housing market. At the same time, the department should stop fighting the losing battle of merely trying to keep up with the growing housing backlog. Instead, this department should give more attention to the upgrading the provision of services, such as clean water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal, as well as security of tenure, of already established informal settlements.  In this way, COGHSTA can increase the living standards of more people, in a shorter period of time, as well as inculcate in our people a sense of ownership.

Last, but not least, allow me to highlight backlog 3 in respect of the state of local government:

Hom. Speaker, the most recent local government audit outcomes saw as many as 21 of our 32 local municipalities falling into the disclaimer or qualified category.

Is it therefore not ironic, that, with just a year to go until the due date of Operation Clean Audit 2014, this department has only now established a unit to champion this long outstanding initiative?

And isn’t it ironic that, three years since the birth of the Local Government Turn Around Strategy, this department has now identified 13 municipalities for fast-tracking of the strategy?

Is this not a case of too little too late? While we can only wonder at these last ditch attempts by this department to save face, we have no doubt that they will make little difference towards saving local government from itself.

Hon. Speaker, as at the end of January this year, municipalities in the Northern Cape were owed R1,5 billion by government departments and other entities. To put this amount into perspective, this is enough to build approximately 19 000 RDP houses.

Municipal debt is a major problem for municipalities and directly affects their ability to render services to their clients. This is a largely structural problem, and requires at least three key factors to be addressed.

1.    Firstly, is the issue of capacity. The inability of many municipalities to comply with financial regulations, as set out by the Auditor-General, and the inability of many municipalities to perform basic services, are disturbing indicators of the lack of capacity in many municipalities.

To this effect, COGHSTA needs an effective and workable plan to improve and create this capacity. This plan shouldn’t merely entail throwing money at skills training, which often has no payoffs. Instead, it should focus more intently on assisting municipalities with the development of recruitment and retention strategies, and the creation of incentives, that will attract people like civil engineers, town planners and quantity surveyors, to the Northern Cape. The plan should further facilitate the implementation of pre-employment checks throughout all municipalities, to weed out candidates with criminal records and falsified qualifications. This is necessary to ensure quality appointments.

2.    Secondly, is the issue of compliance. Hon. Speaker, we are blessed with some of the most progressive and useful legislation in the world, including the MFMA, the PFMA, the Systems Act, the Structures Act, the Property rates Cat and the Demarcation Act. However, this legislation means nothing without.

3.    Thirdly, is the matter of consequences, or rather the lack thereof.

Hon. Speaker, how can it be that municipalities that receive adverse audit opinions, that overspend their budgets and underspend their grants, and that don’t comply with the prescripts of the law, reward municipal managers and officials with performance bonuses?

In this regard, we propose that COGHSTA oversees the implementation of a Performance Management and Development System across all our municipalities. This is necessary, if incompetent officials are to be taken on for poor performance.

The DA would also like to challenge the Hon. MEC to develop a consequence framework for municipalities. We know for a fact that in the Northern Cape, consultants are hired to do the jobs of senior managers, that poorly performing staff are simply shuffled between units,  and that officials are not held liable for over and underspending. Hon. Speaker, such a framework could be the start of ending this perpetuating situation whereby non-compliance and poor performance is protected and even rewarded.

On a higher level, the DA also proposes that the department’s joint MFMA steering committee with Provincial Treasury, submits proposals to National Treasury to institute more section 100 interventions within our municipalities. After all, if withholding funds is what it will take to get municipalities to comply, then so be it.

Hon. Speaker, it is the DA’s conclusion that this department is not able to meet its key mandates, that this department doesn’t have a realistic plan in place to deal with the housing backlog, and that this department is not effectively overseeing our municipalities.

Given these reasons, the DA cannot support Budget Vote 9.

Environment & Conservation Budget vote

Patricia O’Neill-Coutts MPL

Northern Cape Provincial Legislature

Hon. Speaker, Hon. Premier, Hon. MEC’s, Hon. Members, Guests in the gallery

The Northern Cape Department of Environment and Conservation is performing better than most provincial departments when it comes to financial management. This department received an unqualified audit report with matters in the past financial year. This department has also not shied away from Auditor-General and committee recommendations. In this respect, we acknowledge your dedication towards achieving sound financial management.

We cannot, however, ignore the fact that 47% of targets were not met in the past financial year. The Auditor-General stated that the achievement of certain targets was influenced by external factors, not within the control of the department. In this regard, we understand the challenges of this department. But, no matter the rhyme or reason, the Democratic Alliance cannot tolerate a situation whereby responsibilities towards protecting and conserving our environment, are forsaken.

Hon. Speaker, the DA believes that at least two key matters relating to this department, require attention.

Firstly, is the matter of the high wage bill. As much as 71% of this department’s budget is spent on personnel expenditure. This is in spite of the fact that the department still has an extremely high vacancy rate of 59%. In light of this predicament, we propose that the department again reviews its organogram. This department cannot bear the costs of a top heavy structure, nor can it afford to accommodate even one unnecessary post. Instead, every single post must be strategic of nature, and translate directly into growing the specialised skills base of this critical department. We implore the department to ensure that, in this regard, you are beyond reproach. This is very important, as you must be able to justify your high wage bill if you intend on lobbying for additional funding.

This brings me to my second point, namely seeing the high wage bill against the backdrop of a low budgetary allocation.

Hon. Speaker, this department continues to receive less than 1% of the provincial allocation, making it the smallest departmental allocation in the province. This department also receives no conditional grants and is burdened with a number of very important unfunded mandates.

Hon. Speaker, budgetary constraints undoubtedly make this department’s job that much harder. But the DA also gets the feeling that this department is too inclined to just sit back and hope for money. And in doing so, it is rescinding its environmental responsibilities due to a false belief that the budget allocation puts certain targets out of reach.

In contrast, the DA agrees with Paul Hawken, who said, “The future belongs to those who understand that doing more with less is compassionate, prosperous, and enduring, and thus more intelligent, even competitive.”

Hon. Speaker, the DA is of the opinion that more innovation and creative thinking could save this department from itself. To this effect, the DA proposes the following:

  1. Firstly, starting with its five newly renovated reserves, which the department itself has admitted it doesn’t have the financial resources to sustain, this department should explore opportunities though which it can enter into Public Private Partnerships.  PPP’s are a way of bringing in private sector expertise, business efficiency and money, at a time when government money and resources are low. Amongst other things, PPP’s can be used for waste management, protected area management and even eco-tourism. Ultimately, they can address service shortcomings and simultaneously maintain the fiscal prudence required to make this department’s limited resources work harder.
  2. Secondly, we would like to propose that a significant percentage of the funding going towards the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, instead be channelled into the Northern Cape ecosystem. Hon. Speaker, approximately R150 million has already been spent on the single mega tourism event, the Maloof Money Cup. This is almost R50 million more than the entire annual budget of the Environment and Conservation Department. The apparent rationale behind this excessive spending is that in years to come, the millions of rands worth of marketing achieved from the Maloof, would benefit tourism in the province. However, the when, the where and the how much of Maloof’s payoffs, remain vague and, in turn, highly questionable. The DA is thus of the opinion that money spent on events such as these, would serve a much more worthy purpose, if it was instead invested in the environment, in turn giving eco-tourism a true chance at succeeding.

We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t try to turn ourselves into a mini-Johannesburg or Cape Town, because we will always be in the class of wanna-be’s and has-been, because we are working against the forces of nature and the natural forces will eventually win.

Hon. Speaker, provincial government needs to hurry up in making important decisions that are in the best interests of protecting our natural world. This is important because the environment not only provides the basis for life but also because it is in fact the basis for economic activity.

In this regard, we urgently need pioneering and financial solutions to guarantee the following:

  1. A number of planning documents must be urgently completed. These include the development of the Provincial Integrated Coastal Management Plan, the Provincial Biodiversity Plan, the Provincial Carbon Reduction Strategy and the Provincial Greenhouse Gas inventory. An updated Northern Cape State of the Environment Outlook Report must also be compiled to reflect on issues of air quality, water quality, biodiversity, and eco-system health, waste management, energy and other related topics. These are important to planning processes because they serve to clarify the causes of environmental change and recommend how best to respond to these changes.
  2. At the same time, the Provincial Climate Change Response Strategy and the Provincial Air Quality Management Plans must be fully implemented. Climate change has the potential to reduce food production and the availability of potable water. At the same time, in the Northern Cape, vulnerable communities reside on land close to pollution sources. The implementation of these strategies is therefore important, as they serve to sustain the health of both our environment and our people.
  3. The provincial government, in collaboration with this department, must set its sights on activating the green economy by preparing and submitting business plans to Provincial Treasury with the intention of unlocking funding for green economy projects. In this regard, the renewable energy strategy must also be finalised. This is the province of sunshine and clear skies and we need to urgently outline possibilities for investment into the locations best suited for harnessing solar power to generate electricity.
  4. Furthermore, at least 10 additional enforcement and compliance officers must be appointed in the department. There have been reports of cattle-rustling routes in the province being used to smuggle wild lions and other predators out of Botswana to supply a growing demand for lion-bone potions in the Far East. Capacitating the department’s enforcement unit is therefore important if the department is to clamp down on the Northern Cape’s role in international animal trafficking, that is threatening to wipe out some of the planet’s most iconic species.  At the same time, the employment of additional enforcement officers has the potential to increase the revenue generated by this department, by way of doubling the number of fines issued.

Hon. Speaker, this department lacks the passion and creativity to deal with its challenges. It also fails to assume ownership of the Northern Cape environment, as can be seen from its silence on serious matters affecting the people of this province, such as asbestos contamination and fracking. At the same time, the environmental sector doesn’t rank highly on the agenda of the Northern Cape government.  Given the above, the DA doesn’t believe that this budget will guarantee the protection and conservation of our environment. As such, the DA cannot accept Budget Vote 12.

Housing delivery system needs drastic overhaul

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Note: The following address was made by James Masango to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, during the policy and budget debate of the Department of Human Settlements. Budget Vote 13.

Honourable Speaker, the mandate of the human settlements department in a democratic society is clear – to establish viable, socially and economically integrated communities in areas with access to economic hubs, as well as to health, educational and social amenities.

Yet despite 19 years of democracy, the provision of housing in Mpumalanga remains in crisis. With RDP housing fraud, land invasions, illegal selling of property – to mention but a few – often in the news, it’s clear that there is an urgent need for change.

Honourable Speaker, in an open opportunity society, every citizen should enjoy the benefits of a home. No one should be subjected to live in shacks, derelict buildings or on the street. Yet, thousands of people in this province are still waiting in vain to enjoy this right.  In fact, the number of people without proper shelter appears to be increasing year-on-year with the number of backyard dwellers going from 10 584 in 2007 to 52 923 in 2011.

The endless scandals and issues surrounding housing in Mpumalanga are unacceptable and embarrassing. Even Premier David Mabuza spoke out against this when he restructured the department’s management last year, siting inability and inefficiency as the main reasons for his actions.

Although many of the department’s failings are due to a lack of capacity and oversight, the current housing policy is also to blame. It is neither practical nor affordable and has led to the delivery of sub-standard, often unsuitable, units.  There is undoubtedly a need for change – a need for a new housing policy.

Honourable Speaker, the obligation the state has placed on itself to deliver as many formal houses as fast as possible without adequate resources has resulted in many project failures. The province needs a plan that puts tools, knowledge and resources in people’s hands, thus allowing them to take care of their own needs and priorities, with the assistance of the state. The provision of adequate shelter is an individual responsibility, assisted and supported by government where required, and most people are able and willing to do their bit if bureaucratic obstacles are removed.

The DA’s housing policy centres precisely around this.

  • Establish an urban planning system that encourages safe, healthy and pleasant communities;
  • Subsidise basic accommodation for the poor and manage its provision;
  • Avail a serviced site to every poor family lacking shelter and wanting to own a home;
  • Create an environment that facilitates access to housing finance for low-income households;
  • Encourage upgrading and expansion of houses through self-help, sweat equity or soft loans;
  • Provide cost-effective and sustainable basic services to all South Africans;
  • Housing must be about shelter as well as making towns and cities work.

Honourable Speaker, land invasions have become so pervasive in our province, that armed guards are often required at building sites or demarcated land. These invasions have a detrimental effect on the pace and cost of housing delivery and threaten our democratic order.

As long as the department keeps thousands of people waiting for shelter and does little to stop this trend, land invasions will escalate. Government must create a specialised land intervention unit in the Office of the Premier which will comprise mediation specialists. The establishment of a rapid litigation unit, comprising legal experts, is also necessary.

Another massive cause for the housing fiasco is the government’s failure to hand over title deeds. To date, thousands of beneficiaries are still without title deeds and houses, while heartless opportunists exploit their desperation by “buying” and “selling” RDP homes and stands illegally. This is in stark contrast to the DA-led Western Cape, where since initiating a Title Deeds Programme, 20 400 title deeds have been issued.

Honourable Speaker, the Department of Human Settlements has a huge responsibility, yet it’s notorious for neglecting its obligations and ignoring people’s cries for help. Given that it even ignores questions and issues brought forward by MPLs,  it’s no surprise that it totally disregards and snubs the problems experienced by the man on the street.

The time has come to stop promising, start listening and start delivering. Housing is a basic need and an effective contributor to poverty eradication, but if government doesn’t ‘pull up its socks’ it will fail dismally to meet the Millenium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015.

Budget Debate on Transport, Safety & Liaison Budget Vote

Hon. Harold McGluwa,

ID MPL & DA Provincial Chairperson

Hon Speaker the flow of people and goods in a functional society is the most important means of creating wealth, prosperity and economic growth. Individuals in a free society of open opportunities have the right to access safe, reliable and efficient public transport, including the right to use their own private means of transportation to commute. People also have the right to live, work and play in safe communities, free from the cruelty of crime and other social ills.

These two crucial elements of safety, and the ability to transport goods and commute, are the responsibility of the Department of Transport, Safety & Liaison to oversee.

Hon. Speaker, in an open opportunity society for all residents, we talk of an Efficient Society, one in which transport plays a crucial role in getting people to and from places of work and leisure. When they cannot move around freely and easily, their own life chances are reduced and the entire province suffers from these lost opportunities.

The creation of an Efficient Society allows individuals who are pursuing their separate interests, to be able to commute around and exchange goods, services and ideas through voluntary means.

Hon Speaker indeed personal safety is a necessity for all South Africans. People in our province are trapped in a web of terror caused by crime. Many people have lost their lives, and we have become suspicious of our fellow citizens and distrusting of the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe.

Therefore this Budget as presented by the Department is being held against the highest standards that we hold in the opposition. Our criticism and welcoming of certain parts of it, is based on our vision of the creation of safe and efficient communities.

The question arises, how does this Departments budget and Annual Performance Plan (APP) fair?

The Budget

Hon. Speaker our greatest concerns for this Department has been its inability to address the public transport crises in the province, coupled with this, is its inability to provide an effective link between SAPS and communities. These are effectively the Departments core functions!

The 2011/12 annual report showed that the Department was underperforming as it related to their Transport Systems sub-programme, and unsurprisingly the provision of safe, reliable and efficient public transport in the province has taken a back foot.

Take for example that all attempts at establishing Integrated Rapid Transport networks in the province are STILL at the level of discussions. There is nothing concrete, let alone anything at the budgetary level, at the moment. All the while, other provinces are currently implementing some or other public transport initiative.

This is an extremely big problem, and one can call it an effective service delivery failure by the Department. We see the outcomes of this failure in the lines of often poor workers having to walk long distances to get home after their shifts. As the winter months approach, these workers in many places of this province can face sub-zero temperatures during this commute. In all towns of the province, groups of ladies and children, often walk home late at night. I’m extremely concerned for their safety.

Hon. Speaker this Budget is small to say the least, and I do want to take this opportunity to say I recognize the challenge this has posed the Departments Accounting Officer and Senior Management. It can’t be easy for them. In reality, this Department receives a low budget, and makes a meagre attempt to source extra revenue through hap-hazard Motor Vehicle Licences. In total the 2013/14 financial year it has received over R229-million (R299 255 000).

It is also concerning that the Conditional Grants for the 2013/14 year see a marginal growth. The EPWP incentive grant of R196 000 comes across as an insult.

The bottom-line is this Department is in trouble funding-wise…things are looking bleak.

Therefore my criticism falls squarely onto the heads of the Honourable MEC. Where is the political leadership in this Department? In fact, the most apt example of this was the fact that the MEC himself was not present during the Budget Vote meeting.

Hon. Speaker let me be clear. This Budget is definitely not pro-poor, and this is my greatest concern overall.

Take for instance that a population of over 440-thousand people who reside in the Siyanda and Pixley Ka Seme regions have NO access to subsidized public transport services. This is just over 44% of this provinces people, and the vast majority of them poor. Certainly they are totally left-out by this Budget.

This is shocking, and it effectively means those people find it more difficult and expensive to commute to work. For those who are unemployed, it means more will find it more difficult to go out a seek employment.

It’s our view that this Department is best characterised by the numbers of people it DOES NOT service, versus those it does.

Hon. Speaker on the issue of the relationship between the Departments spending and inflation the national governments poor monetary policy has seen inflation steadily increase to 5.9%.

Therefore the increasing inflation rate has been another tax on the poor people of the province, because it has cut spending.

On Service Delivery

It’s important that the department look at the following challenges, which the budget does not address;

1.   The fact that the Department has no Public-Private Partnerships in place. This lack of innovation from the MEC’s Department is concerning, and hurts the poor the most.

2.   Under-performing Police Stations across the province. Residents from all areas are growing increasingly frustrated at the level of service. In fact, Modderrivier was a clear example of this.

It is especially worrying that Programme 2, which is Civilian Oversight, has been cut by 5.2%. Why would the MEC reduce such an important programme?

3.   The drop in funding for Monitoring and Evaluation, is concerning. The Department has failed to explain why no provision for monitoring how communities around police stations perceive their local SAPS station is done.

4.   How was it justifiable for the Department to slash 20.3% off the Community Police Relations Sub-programme. The ID believes the Department owe us and the people of this province an explanation for this!

5.   The “Transport Systems” sub-programme has received one of the smallest budget allocations. The poor funding is of a concern, as there is a need for developing an integrated transport plan across the province.

Take for example that the number of people who use bicycles to commute to-and-from work could easily be in the thousands, and YET not a single dedicated cycle route or lane exists in major cities.

6.   Lastly Speaker, people in bigger city’s such as Kimberley and Upington, are failed miserably at the lack of an efficient bus service, especially one which is part of an Integrated Rapid Transport System.

Our Alternative

Hon Speaker we believe that there are alternatives and better ways in which to allocate this budget. Indeed our suggestions are geared towards creating a Safe and Efficient Society. Let me share just three suggestions.

1.   A state subsidy via a single, multi-use ticket for all certified public transport users on IRT and BRT systems across the province.

2.   Improve funding for Monitoring & Evaluation programmes of police services, and provide residents with regular and up-to-date crime statistics.

3.   Establish many and innovative PPP’s which aim to improve service delivery and boost funding.

Hon Speaker in conclusion, it will be the Hon. MEC Mabilo’s actions which will speak louder than words.

Let us work towards ensuring that the Northern Cape with its vast transport network is regarded as the safest in the country.

Dankie, Ngi-ya-bonga!

Hon. Speaker this Budget Vote 3 is simply not going to adequately address the challenges of many poor residents across the province, and its targets are simply not ambitious and innovative enough, therefore we do not accept Budget Vote 3.

DA Rejects Gauteng Premier’s Budget Vote

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

Note: Summary extract of Speech by Jack Bloom MPL on Budget Vote of the Premier’s Office

Madam Speaker, the DA will not be supporting the budget vote for the Premier’s Office.

The history of this office shows an ineffectiveness that is likely to be repeated in the year ahead.

The Premier’s Office surrendered R6 million back to Treasury in the past financial year due to the non-filling of posts for the new approved personnel structure.

The new structure is being implemented in phases over three years, and vacant posts are being reprioritised.

So Madam Premier, when you leave office at the end of your five year mandate, you will not even have succeeded in fully staffing your own office so that it can fulfil its vital function in leading this administration.

Despite the Premier’s pledge in February 2011 that all vacant posts in the entire provincial government would be filled within six months, the vacancy rate remains well above 10%.

Another area where the Honourable Premier is all big talk and little action is fighting corruption.

According to the Public Service Commission, the Gauteng Provincial Government has ignored 729 out of 1540 corruption tip-offs from the National Anti-Corruption Hotline.

This means that just under half, 47%, were simply ignored, with no feedback given at all.

Only 578 out of 1540 cases, which is 38%, were closed.

Gauteng received the highest number of corruption tip-offs of all the provinces, more than 50% higher than the next highest province, Mpumalanga, which had 1000 cases.

The failure to follow up on corruption tip-offs defeats the whole purpose of an anti-corruption hotline.

This administration is awash with fishy contracts that have cost us dearly in wasted expenditure.

Doctors who abuse overtime are chased down, but others get off because they don’t have high-level political connections.

I wish to inform this House that the criminal charge that I laid against Ms Benedicta Monama for signing an illegal R3 billion contract for Drivers Licence Testing Centres is currently with the Public Prosecutor.

This is a prime example of a possible corruption case where this administration simply let the alleged perpetrator go.

So, Madam Premier, you will not go down in history as a great corruption fighter.

Another disappointing area has been in formulating a litigation strategy to deal with the barrage of legal cases faced by this administration.

Last year the Sheriff of the court arrived twice at the premier’s office to cart away furniture to pay for a court order for medical negligence.

Unbelievably, this happened again this year, this time at the premier’s official residence.

On 19 March, the Sheriff was rebuffed by security at the Bryanston residence when he tried to attach furniture because of a R5 million unpaid court order for medical negligence.

A warrant against the Premier was granted on 18 January this year, but the premier’s office still refused to pay even though 15.5% punitive interest is charged. The interest from this late payment is more than R300 000.

It is really shameful that the Premier repeatedly fails to pay court orders unless pressured by having her goods attached.

The premier must obey the law like everyone else and pay up in good time without wasting money on high interest charges.

Another area or repeated failure is paying suppliers within 30 days.

But in the January to March quarter, the Premier’s Office paid only 520 out of 603 companies i.e. 75%, in this time period.

This is really a poor example for other departments.

In general, there is poor monitoring and evaluation by the Premier’s Office.

This is why she was caught by surprise that none of the promised Youth Enterprise Hubs had been built, and that the youth employment targets were a tragic fantasy.

There should have been early warning about this, as well as the on-going failure to spent capital budgets in most departments.

This history of failure is why we will not be supporting this budget vote.

DA statement on Budget Vote of Provincial Treasury

Karen Kock, MPL

DA Northern Cape

Aside from spearheading budgetary allocations, it is Provincial Treasury’s role to strengthen the manner in which they provide support to departments and municipalities within the Northern Cape, in pursuit of diligent financial management.

In this regard, I would like to start by acknowledging the administration of this department on progress made towards capacitating Provincial Treasury.

We further appreciate steps taken towards ensuring that the integrity of the administration of Provincial Treasury is beyond reproach by conducting pre-employment checks to ensure that fraudulent qualifications and criminally convicted persons do not pass through your employment system. It is, however, regrettable that this department continues to be presided over by an MEC who faces numerous fraud and corruption charges. This irony seriously compromises Provincial Treasury’s reputation.

Hon. Speaker, aside from the damning matter of the political head of Provincial Treasury, what remains of great concern to the Democratic Alliance is the limited impact that this department is having on promoting sound financial management within departments and municipalities. Yes, some inroads have and will be been made with regards to Renosterberg, Sol Plaatje, Khara Hais, the Department of Education, the establishment of internal audit committees, and the biometric system.

There are, however, also those municipalities and departments where no inroads were made. In fact, 23 of our 32 municipalities were still in the qualified or disclaimer categories.

To this end there have been countless visits to municipalities, as well as training initiatives and workshops. Staff have also been seconded to municipalities to provide hands on assistance and to facilitate skills transfers.  Yet, our municipalities remain in dire straits.

The Northern Cape Health Department is another case in point. For the past 10 years, health has been the bane of this province. For years, Provincial Treasury has committed itself to working with health to address financial management issues. They have seconded staff to assist with SCM processes, released staff into the permanent employ of health, admitted that their previous interventions had failed, and recommitted Provincial Treasury to resolving the financial management challenges in the current electoral cycle. But when we look at health today, not much has changed, except perhaps that their irregular expenditure has risen into the billions.

As a result, Provincial Treasury failed to meet 41% of its planned targets in the 2011/2012 financial year. In the past financial year, they also underspent on their.

budget. It should therefore come as no surprise that there have, over the years, been a number of commitments from Provincial Treasury that have not borne fruit. At the end of the day, we all know that Operation Clean Audit was just another empty promise.

Hon. Speaker, the above paints a picture of a Provincial Treasury who, in spite of good intentions and seemingly relevant initiatives has, and continues, to fall short of achieving the desired results.  The big question that needs to be asked, is why?

We have heard Provincial Treasury’s defense that up until recently they have been highly understaffed and thus incapacitated to expend their entire budget and unable to achieve all their performance targets. However, we do not consider this to be the primary reason for their most significant failures.  Instead, the DA would like to highlight two key elements that we believe are largely negating Provincial Treasury’s efforts.

1.     Firstly, Provincial Treasury is too soft on government institutions. The PFMA gives Provincial Treasury the power to withhold funds to address a serious breach of the act. While we appreciate that Provincial Treasury recently threatened to use this clause on the health department, we are of the firm view that this clause shouldn’t merely be used as a threat and that it should instead be implemented more often

2.     Secondly, training and mentorships must be amended. Competency levels of financial staff in departments and, even more so in municipalities, remain below standard and training initiatives therefore have limited payoffs. Similarly, hands on interventions only have temporary benefits because true skills transfers are not possible due to the low aptitude of officials. In the Western Cape, they have significantly expanded training to cover more bases. They have also introduced mentorship programmes. As Provincial Treasury doesn’t have the power to fire and hire municipal staff, we propose that the department considers reviewing its organogram to include one mentor per struggling municipality and department. Each mentor will then serve permanently within the respective institutions and their performance should be evaluated against progress made towards financial management. This will prevent a situation whereby the regression occurs as soon as Provincial Treasury withdraws its assistance. This may be an expensive exercise but the long term payoffs of having financially viable municipalities should outweigh the costs.

Hon. Speaker, Provincial Treasury undoubtedly has some of the most capable and best qualified staff in the province. They climbed Kilimanjaro when they turned a disclaimer into an unqualified audit finding with matters.

However, their biggest challenge yet – their Mount Everest – still awaits them, namely sound financial management not only within the department but across the province.

And for this, Provincial Treasury needs more courage. By withholding funds, you have the power to coerce accounting officers to comply. It is time to toughen up and use this power. You also have to change the way you train officials.

In closing, there is a third element that must be addressed. The DA believes that the Hon. Block tarnishes Provincial Treasury’s image and limits what can be done, as he withholds the political will to address the weak financial performance of his colleagues and/or friends. As long as he is at the head of this department, we do not believe that Provincial Treasury is in a position to optimally use its budget to achieve the desired impact. It is for these reasons that the DA has chosen not to accept budget vote 8.

 

A people centred government will deliver quality services

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was delivered by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on the policy and budget speech of the Office of the Premier. Vote1.

The Office of The Premier (OTP) is there to provide strategic direction to the province in the attainment of the government’s priorities. The premier’s office must lead with example, must be beyond reproach, and must act as the leader of government.

The OTP must ensure cabinet is in touch with the needs of communities. The Premier needs to avail himself to all citizens of the province, and make an effort to address all issues put forth.

The Premier is the chief and commander, the leader in the struggle towards economic emancipation, an honour bestowed unto him by the people of this province.

The OTP serves a vital role as the heart and brain of the living organism that is the Mpumalanga government.

It saddens me that too many people are continuing to remain in poverty and unemployment, and that our economy is growing at too slow a rate to realise our socio-economic aspirations.

Honourable Speaker, undoubtedly one of the greatest principles underpinning our democracy is that of choice, and the freedom to make political choices. Therefore, the people of our province must Know their DA.

Not only must they know what contribution leaders like Helen Suzman, Helen Zille, Patricia De Lille, Wilmot James, Jo Seremane and other great DA leaders made in the fight against apartheid to bring about that political choice, but so too must they know what the DA offers in terms running the government of the Mpumalanga Province, through the OTP.

As aforementioned, the OTP can be seen as the heart and brains of the living organism that is the province.

The heart is connected to organs via channels, just like the OTP is connected to various departments. In order for this system of governance to work harmoniously (the heart to beat and the organs to operate), there needs to be in place a system of real efficiency and equity dedicated to quality service delivery so as to attain the better life  that we all aspire for. Such a system can be found in the DA’s Public Service Policy (PSP).

The DA’s PSP will ensure the efficient delivery of quality service to the people of the province. To be an efficient employer and to ensure public services of high quality, the policy will ensure that government reforms its pay, recruitment and promotion policies, to make them more flexible and less centralised, and to place the emphasis on ability rather than years of service.

Honourable Speaker, it is no secret that the current Public Service Administration systems are archaic: elaborate controls and inflexible bureaucracies prevent delivery.

Thousands of job classifications; rigid hiring and firing procedures; layers and layers of middle management; stifling bureaucratic rules and regulations, and myriad procedures that virtually ensure that no employee, no matter how incompetent, will ever be fired.

The systems in place are old, outdated and need to change to accompany the dynamic global bubble we live in today. The DA’s policy speaks to such and looks to modernising the public service. In its attempts, the policy amongst others will focus on resource utilisation, which deals with lean and efficient and stringent financial controls.

A focus on core departmental functions:  Ensuring government only does what it has to, by minimising its interference with individual, civil society and the private sector, so as to properly focus on fiscal and delivery matters. The policy will also deal with attracting and retaining skills: Selecting the right people for the jobs and rewarding them for their hard work.

The policy is firm on its stance on accountability in government. The DA believes government can be more accountable by:

  • Empowering managers: The public sector must be headed by top quality managers who are properly remunerated and motivated and whose performance meets measurable targets.
  • Creating performance contracts: The DA proposes an employment system for senior public servants based on three- to five-year performance contracts.
  • Decentralisation: The DA proposes the abolition of the centralised departments (the Department of Public Works and the Department of Public Service and Administration) which hinder management reform.

Honourable Speaker, we shall not forget that the OTP is also the brains of the body. The brains are in charge of ensuring that all organs (departments) are co-ordinated and in sync. The brains ensure that all organs know their individual goals, as well as the overall goals of the body as a whole. The OTP must communicate the vision and mission to all departments, and the DA has a policy that speaks to this subject.

The policy in question is the DA communications policy. This policy realises that the Information, Communications and Technology sector of the South African economy plays a vital role in the development of the country and its people.

Through hours of programming and integrating networks and systems, the DA will look into bridging the great digital divide, not only improving communications with government, but also improving the lives of citizens. The vision of the DA is to realise fully South Africa’s potential in the field of electronic communications by giving all its citizens access to affordable, high quality communication services that enhance educational, business and other life opportunities, and consumer choice in the digital age – empowering the economy as a whole.

Honourable Speaker, we realise that no system is without its faults. The greatest threat to the efficiency of government has been discovered to be business dealings of government officials with government.

Honourable Premier, the DA has already tabled a private members bill which seeks to remove this virus from government. Sadly, this bill entitled the Mpumalanga Business Interests of Employees Bill (MBIEB) has been rejected without any consideration.

This bill seeks to restrict the business interests of employees of the provincial government and of provincial public entities of conducting business with the provincial government – and would go a long way in giving effect to the Premier’s own announcement about this matter during his 2013 State of the Province Address.

Honourable Speaker, Premier, the above is just a taste of what the DA has to offer – a vision, a solution, a path out of poverty toward economic prosperity.

We in the DA believe in the people of our province, we believe in their right to:

  • Proper health care;
  • Quality education;
  • Adequate and reliable basic services, such as water, electricity and sanitation;

We believe in a people-centred , service orientated, effective and efficient government – accountable to the people of our province.

Honourable Speaker, the DA has a vision to reform the public service, which puts people first, and the ego of politicians last.

Indeed there is still a great deal for you to Know About Your DA.