Treasury must capture, keep holy grail

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the fact that annual report presentations from the Northern Cape Provincial Treasury will kick off future programmes of the Legislature. This commitment was made during the presentation of the 2014/15 Annual Report on Friday.

It is also welcome to note that the acting MEC for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism engaged constructively with the Portfolio Committee on Finance regarding Treasury’s performance. The previous incumbent could not even be bothered to attend such meetings.

However, the Democratic Alliance remain concerned that Treasury has regressed from its clean audit outcome of 2013/14. The failure to hold on to this holy grail of audit outcomes reflects very poorly on Treasury. This is the department which should be setting the example for other departments to follow.

Quite simply, it is non-negotiable for Treasury to get a clean audit and we trust we will see this outcome going forward. After the engagement on Friday, we believe that all senior officials understand why any finding is a material finding and hopefully no official will laugh about findings in the future.

Acting appointments, which range from the MEC to the HOD to key positions in Assets & Liabilities, must be resolved as a matter of urgency. It creates instability when staff are acting in positions for more than six months – and it also transgresses national directives on filling vacant funded posts.

Treasury should also plan for its budget properly, as it had underspent by 9%. Cost containment is not the same as underspending and it is crucial that Treasury grasps the difference between these two concepts. Underspending also hides the effect of accruals, which increased by 65% since the previous year. Accruals are basically debts that still need to be paid and the funds would have been deducted from the 2015/16 budget, leaving fewer resources available to meet Treasury’s targets.

We believe that Treasury can repeat its previous achievements if it commits itself to being serious about its own audit outcomes.

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Letter to the Editor: Encourage temporary opportunities

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Economic Affairs in the Northern Cape:

It would not be wrong to describe youth unemployment as a crisis on the brink of a catastrophe. As the FeesMustFall University protests show, education is being systematically underfunded and crippled by national government, making fewer and fewer young South Africans equipped to take up jobs, or to start their own businesses.

At 45%, the Northern Cape has the highest youth unemployment rate in the country, which makes the province the locus of the youth crisis.

What we lack is sound policies which will create opportunities, rather than destroy jobs and dreams.

Part of the solution to the youth unemployment problem lies in encouraging and opening up temporary employment.

Through temporary employment, young people are given a fair chance to prove themselves to employers, to gain much-needed experience and to network in their respective fields. Research from the World Bank has also shown that the use of fixed-term contracts for permanent tasks incentivises businesses to create jobs for young workers. In turn, young workers receive the invaluable experience needed on almost every employment application form.

We need to maximise on these advantages, and we need temporary work opportunities to come from the private sector, and be supported by government with incentives.

Lifting the inopportune three-month time limits on temporary employment would make it easier for our youth to access economic opportunities. The current three month limit should be extended to two years, which would protect workers from being kept on temporary contracts indefinitely while the economy would benefit from the potential of the sector to create opportunities. Laws like the Basic Conditions of Employment Act ensure that the rights of the worker on a temporary contract are protected, and the length would not affect these protections.

This week’s protests have shown that the youth hasn’t given up on their futures at all. Government dare not give up on them either.

Just as FeesMustFall, so restrictions on invaluable temporary experience opportunities must fall too.

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HODs, MEC must be appointed soon

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance urges Premier Sylvia Lucas to expedite the appointment of the Member of the Executive Council for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism as well as permanent heads of department for the provincial Treasury and the department of Economic Development & Tourism. The departments have had acting heads since October 2014 and November 2014, respectively.

Since the resignation last week of the former MEC for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism, it becomes even more important to have permanency in key positions.

It is detrimental to the stability of the departments when there is uncertainty about senior positions and it makes delivering on core mandates more difficult. Both are key departments in creating an economic environment in which jobs can be created.

With the highest youth unemployment rate in the country, we need the departments to be geared towards expanding economic opportunities to all and not to be wondering about what’s going to happen next.

Departments will be presenting their annual reports to the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature soon; who will be held accountable for mismanagement and maladministration when there is neither a MEC nor a HOD?

We have called on the premier to take her responsibilities seriously before. She is neglecting het duty in terms of section 12(1)(b) of the Public Service Act, which mandates her to appoint heads of department.

It is a national objective that funded vacancies, such as heads of departments, must be filled within six months.

However, the premier has sat back and now the provincial Treasury has had an acting head for a year. The department of Economic Development & Tourism has had an acting head for eleven months.

We call on the premier to appoint skilled professionals with the interests of the people at heart to these vacancies. We need knowledgeable officials who will care more about the public than about personal gain in these positions.

The Northern Cape cannot afford another MEC who defrauds the province or corruptly enriches himself.

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Amathole District Municipality suspended its important infrastructural improvement programmes due to cash flow crisis.

By Athol Trollip (MPL), Provincial Leader:

In a response to a parliamentary question I asked Premier Phumulo Masualle yesterday (subs:  Wed, 30 Sept) regarding the suspension of the above infrastructure programme in the Amathole District Municipality (ADM), he conceded that his administration had become aware of this situation.

He explained that the cause of this embarrassing situation was the fact that the planning around managing the cash flow of multi-year projects was deficient.  He also claimed that this situation was brought about by faster than expected progress, resulting in future year funding being used in advance.

In a follow-up question, I countered this by saying that the controversially awarded Siyenza sanitation project, where well connected ANC leadership figures and their families were involved, was paid with such enthusiasm that they were “favoured” with advance payments for millions of rands before any work was done.

The Premier said that is was “regrettable and unacceptable” that this situation had arisen.  In this regard, I asked the Premier who would be paying the salaries of the people who had been retrenched or released due to this “suspension” of contracts.  I also asked who was going to pay or how were contractors expected to pay their suppliers from whom millions of rands of goods and services have been procured in advance in order to fulfill their contracts.

The consequences of such incompetence and maladministration have catastrophic effects on the local Border and Eastern Cape economy, not to mention the hardship of unemployment, the liquidation of some companies and the negative impact of downgrading of their credit worthiness due to non payment of their suppliers. This is not a good story to tell, it is a tragic story of neglect, carelessness, woeful administration and inept leadership.

This situation can be spun by governmental spin-doctors, but the thousands of people who are directly and indirectly affected by this shambles know that this is not a good story to tell.  The ANC can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the people all the time.

A DA government that espouses the values of Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity would never allow this situation to arise because we, stop corruption, start delivery and create jobs, not shed them

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DA debates motion on labour absorptive industries

The following speeches were delivered in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature today by the DA’s Janet Semple MPL, Janho Engelbrecht MPL, Ina Cilliers MPL, and Ashor Sarupen MPL during debates on the motion of the Gauteng Provincial Government’ s debate on South Africa’s Labour Absorptive industries.

 

Speech by

Janet Semple MPL

DA Shadow MEC for Economic Development

“Reduce the state’s involvement in the economy”

Speech Highlights:

  • Nationalisation is a job killer and an investment deterrent
  • Mineral wealth beneath the soil is already nationalised in terms of the Mineral & Petroleum Resources Act of 2003
  • ESKOM is an example that emphasis state is not the best or most efficient body to be running such entities
  • Government should be investing in the necessary infrastructure that allows the entrepreneurs to grow which in turn will create jobs and wealth
  • It is difficult for state owned entities to modernise at the rate necessary for cost effective delivery
  • We don’t need 100 black industrialists to create jobs, we need 1 million black entrepreneurs to create jobs
  • We need to tailor our education systems to produce graduates highly skilled in our countries’ niche production areas for an entire supply chain, and use the supply chain to bolster small business development.

The full speech can be obtained here.

 

Speech by:

Janho Engelbrecht MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Environmental Affairs

“Play to your strengths to build a strong economy”

Speech highlights

  • South Africa has to prioritize on its industry strengths like mining, agriculture, tourism and automotive industry.
  • All these industries face a number of challenges
  • Our country’s poor administrative rights process has led to a dramatic increase in skepticism of South Africa as a mining destination
  • There has been a distinguishable tendency in South Africa of poor administration of rights applications and processes, seeing applicants experiencing delays
  • The tourism industry is marred by the nonsensical visa regulations resulting in a 150 000 tourist decline costing the country up to R1.6 billion
  • The automotive industry has a real competitive advantage, however sustained labour unrest has left international confidence at an all-time low

The full speech can be obtained here.

 

Speech by

Ina Cilliers MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Infrastructure Development

“Policy certainty will boost agricultural sector”

Speech highlights:

  • Since 2006, South Africa has been a net importer of processed foods
  • The net importation of processed foods has led to a drop in employment in the agricultural sector
  • We need to ask WHY, in spite of consensus in this House about or economic reality, are we still unable to unlock the potential of our people?
  • If we do not address the real reasons behind these observations and facts, we will make an incorrect diagnosis which will lead us to applying an incorrect solution
  • Since the agricultural sector is singled out in this motion, there is nothing in the current hostile policy confusion of the government that entices anybody to stay in agriculture
  • The agricultural sector requires a massive investment in infrastructure
  • Our farmers need to know where they stand

The full speech can obtained here.

 

Speech by

Ashor Sarupen MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Finance

“An open economy is a growing economy”

Speech highlights

  • State ownership of all land and industry was tried and failed by many states
  • Foreign investment into manufacturing will provide the demand for goods and services from small businesses.
  • It is through an open economy and investment that we can achieve 1-million black owned businesses
  • It’s good to see the members in red today, I was getting worried that with the Prada and Gucci, they had abandoned their struggle altogether.
  • What the EFF really want is to take the economy away from the people and give it to themselves in order to fund the lifestyle of its commander in chief
  • Calls for nationalisation, state ownership, 100-mega wealthy so called industrialists comes as a result of corrupt leaders wanting to make themselves even richer, while making all South African’s poor

The full speech can be obtained here.

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Appointment of CEO remains concern

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the fruitful discussion between ourselves and the Office of the Auditor-General on the recent developments at the Northern Cape Liquor Board.

During the meeting, it was confirmed that the Office of the Auditor-General did request information from the Northern Cape Liquor Board regarding the appointment of the chief executive officer.

Requesting information of any nature is a normal step in regulatory audits and there is nothing inherently suspicious about such a request.

The Auditor-General furthermore confirmed that it did raise a finding relating to the appointment of the CEO. The Liquor Board, whether on its own or through the MEC for Finance, is free to rebut or disprove this finding.

As the Democratic Alliance, we appreciate the need for the Office of the Auditor-General to remain an independent and unbiased body. The role that the auditors play in clean administration, which leads to improved service delivery, cannot be overestimated.

We will engage with the findings from the audit when the Liquor Board comes to table their annual reports.

We remain concerned about the seemingly irregular appointment of the CEO. We have requested a formal inquiry into personnel practices at the Liquor Board from the Public Service Commission. We believe that the correct procedures were not followed and we want the principles of proper public administration to be upheld.

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Block usurps premier’s powers

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance believes that the delivery of services and meeting the needs of residents must be the cornerstone of all departmental programmes.

However, we question the fact that the MEC for Finance has taken it upon himself to hand over dictionaries, calculators, baby bags, sanitary towels and four houses.

This so-called constituency outreach programme has nothing to do with the core mandate of the Provincial Treasury. Treasury must promote sound fiscal policy in the provincial administration, not co-ordinate outreach programmes.

In fact, the cheap stunt usurps the powers of the premier, who has the executive authority to co-ordinate the activities of provincial departments. Since April this year, a provincial planning forum and a provincial development planning forum has been in operation at the Office of the Premier.

Why, then, does the MEC for Finance usurp the powers belonging to the premier? Do we have an actual premier in the province or is she just the premier on paper, without any authority of her own? And would the MEC have attempted this grab for power if the premier was male?

The entire stunt smacks of cheap electioneering being done through a government department. If the MEC for Finance wants to campaign for his party, he should do so in his own time and with his party’s resources. He also shouldn’t drag officials from his department into his political ventures. Man hours are lost in the preparations for this electioneering ploy and for the two days that officials will be away from their desks. We need senior officials to be in their offices and attending to the core functions of Treasury, not standing around in the field and stroking the MEC’s ego.

We will be following up the matter with the Provincial Treasury to determine the cost of this expensive exercise, including the calculated loss of productivity.

The MEC would be well-advised to focus on economic concerns which truly matter to the lives of our people, like addressing the slow payment to SMME’s by the provincial government and creating an environment which is conducive to job creation. The province needs a MEC for Finance who is concerned about economic affairs, not political ploys.

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DA requests inquiry into NCLB

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance has requested a formal inquiry from the Public Service Commission into personnel practices at the Northern Cape Liquor Board.

We are made to believe that the appointment of Ms. Rudessa Stadhauer-Andrews as chief executive officer of the board is irregular. The Northern Cape Liquor Act gives the MEC for Finance a fairly wide discretion to appoint a chief executive officer. These appointments must be made within the prescripts of the law. In the event of discrepancies, the MEC should withdraw the appointment.

The MEC cannot ignore all the regulations and requirements entirely.

There still has to be a transparent and fair process, which must include advertising the post and interviewing a short-list of potential candidates. The MEC might have a discretion in the appointment, but he does not have the power to dispense with the Public Service Act entirely.

Section 12(3) of the Northern Cape Liquor Act confers the power to make appointments on the chief executive officer. If the appointment of the chief executive officer is irregular, however, how legal are the employment contracts that she entered into on behalf of the Liquor Board?

Evidence at our disposal indicates that Ms. Stadhauer-Andrews has made questionable appointments during her tenure. For example, one of the employees she had appointed was previously dismissed from the Northern Cape Gambling Board for misconduct. How was this appointment justified?

The Democratic Alliance believes that a transparent, accountable public administration rests on fair, objective personnel practices.

Appointments in the public administration, including public entities, must comply with the Public Service Act and must be based on merit.

Anything else is just favouritism which undermines the efficiency of the public service.

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Letter to the editor: Actionable strategy to combat alcohol abuse needed

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

Sir,

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the commitment from the newly appointment provincial police commissioner to address the widespread abuse of alcohol in the Northern Cape.

Lt-General Risimati Peter Shivuri and his team must introduce an actionable strategy to combat alcohol abuse. We need an implementable plan of action to curb the proliferation of illegal shebeens, to stop underage drinking and to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We read too many stories on a Monday morning about crimes that were committed under the influence of alcohol.

To achieve the goal of a province that enjoys its liquor responsibly and legally, the relationship between the Northern Cape Liquor Board and SAPS must improve. The Liquor Board simply does not have the capacity to enforce compliance with the liquor regulations on its own.

Each liquor outlet must be visited between four and six times yearly to test its compliance with norms. The Liquor Board does not have the resources to meet this target.

In past sessions with the Legislature, the Liquor Board has indicated that their requests to SAPS for assistance with compliance operations often fall on deaf ears. Without funding, resources and much-needed assistance from SAPS, the Liquor Board acts like a rubberstamping entity and not a regulatory power.

For liquor regulation in the province to be effective, we need a properly capacitated Liquor Board that enjoys the full support of SAPS.

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Letter to the editor: All public service appointments must be lawful

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance is concerned that the Northern Cape Liquor Board is mired in another controversy about unlawful appointments. The latest scandal relates to the appointment of the chief executive officer. We call on the entity to comply with the Auditor-General’s request and to provide the documentation showing that the chief executive officer has been appointed lawfully, if such documentation exists.

 

In fact, the Democratic Alliance has requested an investigation into nepotism at the Board more than a month ago. The facts at our disposal indicate that the chief executive officer has employed staff who are her friends or relatives. If the chief executive officer overstepped her bounds, her contract must be terminated. The regulations issued in terms of the Northern Cape Liquor Act regarding the chief executive officer makes provision for the contract to be terminated on the basis of improper conduct or unfitness to perform the functions associated with the chief executive officer.

 

It would indeed be improper to fill such a crucial oversight entity with friends and family. The Northern Cape Liquor Board fulfils a crucial function in the province, especially with regards to the issuing and monitoring of liquor licenses. It has been made abundantly clear in portfolio committee meetings that the entity currently does not have the capacity to deliver on its mandates.

 

If you then begin to make appointments based on relationships and not merit, you will sink the ship even faster.

 

The Democratic Alliance believes that your access to economic opportunities must not be determined by your political connections or your friendships with people in high places. All appointments made in the public service must adhere to the Public Service Act.

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