Letter to the Editor – Interpreting municipal audit outcomes

By Mark Steele, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Scopa:

Interpreting audit outcomes is an annual statistical minefield for journalists and political parties alike.  MECs and political parties have a vested interest in ‘shaping’ the results so as to show themselves or their party in the most favourable light.  The AGSA does his best to present a user friendly document but by its very nature a consolidated report of municipal outcomes for the whole country for a financial year (in the most recent case 2013/14) is going to be a mass of complicated statistics graphs and diagrams.

Take one simple measure.  Gauteng got 13 clean audits, KZN 20 and the Western Cape 18.  At first sight this puts KZN in the lead, but not for long.  If you look at the percentages for these numbers against the number of actual auditees in a province then it’s quite a different story.  Gauteng’s 13 is only 39% of its auditees, KZN’s 20 is even less at 28% of its auditees and the Western Cape surges ahead with its 18 clean audits being 55% of its auditees.

Then there is the question of what is an auditee.  The AG’s report puts together in a single statistical lump metropolitan municipalities, district municipalities, local municipalities and municipal entities.  It could well be argued that if you want to have any meaningful comparison then each category of municipality should be treated separately, while municipal entities are quite clearly a different kind of creature to any category of municipality.

Be that as it may, that is what the AGSA has done in this report but one cannot conflate ‘auditees’ with ‘municipalities’ as some news reports have done.  KZN has 61 municipalities (1 metro, 10 districts and 50 locals) but only 13 (21%) received clean audits.  The Western Cape has 30 municipalities (1 metro, 5 districts and 24 locals) but of these 17 (57%) received clean audits.

Both provinces have done well but only one can claim truly outstanding municipal government.

In a time when the public is starved of good news stories it is understandable that figures that look good will get big, positive headlines.  If one doesn’t take care however the good news becomes just another con story and no different to any of the other political scandals sweeping the country from the Nkandla whitewash report to the irregularities around the 2010 SA bid for the FIFA World Cup.

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Letter to the Editor – Western Cape Health tops in terms of health care delivery

Letter to the Editor, For Publication.

By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

A report by the Public Services Commission has confirmed that the Western Cape’s health department is the best of all nine provinces when it comes to health care delivery, specifically with regards to the management of medicines

The report further noted that the Western Cape has an excellent and efficient distribution system

It is unforgivable that our own KZN Health MEC and his department cannot achieve similar ratings.  Time and again, the DA has referred the MEC and senior officials to best practice in the Western Cape, to no avail.

The DA will again motivate for a visit by the MEC, the KZN Health Portfolio Committee and the Deputy Director General, also responsible for pharmaceutical services, to visit the Western Cape.

Their first priority must be to bring back the excellent model of healthcare delivery which the people of KZN so badly need.

The MEC has two options at this stage.  He must either set aside his  political party’s infighting and bickering where he may be heavily involved  and focus on what is in the best interests of the people of this province or he must leave.

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

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Letter to the Editor – Ezemvelo should not be part of the problem

Ann McDonnell, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance notes with horror the revelation of yet another illegal development in the Jozini area. This time, as reported, the blame lies squarely at the door of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife which has received a hefty fine.

The development of this tourist lodge without the necessary Environmental Authorisation is redolent of the illegal drainage of wetlands in the province – another process without said authorisation – which has now fortunately been halted by the Green Scorpions.

This blatant disregard for environmental regulations cannot continue.

The DA will submit a written parliamentary question to MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, under whose leadership KZN Ezemvelo falls.

We will interrogate the process used to provide authorisation for this latest illegal development.  We will also query the Board of EKZN’s complicity along with the quality of the “rustic cabins”, which turned into hastily and badly erected Wendy houses to the tune of R3.5 million.

As the custodians of the natural assets of our province, Ezemvelo should be protecting this heritage.  It should definitely not be part of the problem.

 

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New National Health ombudsman is in for a shock

Letter to the Editor,

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

THE announcement, by South Africa’s Health Minister, of the establishment of a national ombudsman is welcomed by the DA in KwaZulu-Natal.  One can only hope the new incumbent will be up to the job – if KZN’s ombudsman is anything to go bye, then we’re in for trouble.

Despite referring several serious matters to this office for investigation last year, the DA has not had one response despite assurances to the KZN Health portfolio committee that the turnaround time for any probe is 25 days.

We understand that some issues take longer to investigate.  But complainants should at least get a progress report when weeks turn into months.  Serious complaints relating to Stanger hospital are yet to be finalised almost four months later and we are beginning to doubt the autonomy of this office.

The National ombudsman office must also deal with the massive medico-legal burden, which is increasing daily.  Key to this is addressing the cause, rather than the symptoms, particularly here in KZN where the bill is in the billions and where causes range from political lethargy in dealing with serious criminal and negligent activities, shortage of doctors, nurses, to medicine, infrastructure, security, ambulances and even porters.

There can be no doubt that the new ombudsman is in for a shock.  One can only hope that this new office will not be undermined by handlers and that it will be allowed to get on with its work.

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Letter to the editor: Municpal failures must be reversed

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader:

The state of municipal finances in the Northern Cape gives credence to Minister Gordhan’s assessment that a third of municipalities are failing. Municipal failures must be reversed through improved financial management and better service delivery.

The money meant to serve communities is there, but it is being badly misspent. Over the past three financial years, for example, fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by Northern Cape municipalities increased by 81%. At the Tsantsabane municipality alone, penalties of

R33 million was incurred due to the late submission of VAT returns.

Officials should have known when to submit the returns, as the tax cycle is no secret to any South African. This example illustrates perfectly what happens when cadre deployment is prioritised above service delivery.

We need jobs for professionals, not jobs for pals. In the previous financial year, contracts worth a collective R49.9 million were awarded to councillors, municipal employees, other state officials and their family members. The subsequent contracts are often not monitored for performance.

Currently, the provincial government lacks the political will to address the root causes of poor audit outcomes. Year in and year out, the Auditor-General raises the same findings on poor supply chain management, a lack of consequences for transgressions and bad management of municipal finances. We are doomed to repeat these findings, because the ANC does not take its incompetent comrades to task.

The DA looks forward to being voted into power next year, so that we can reverse the failures brought about by the ANC.

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Letter to the Editor – MEC’s next move will reveal true colours

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

Letter to the editor

For Publication

24 February 2015:

What happens next at Stanger Hospital will reveal whether the MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and his department are serious about addressing the very real problems at this institution.

 

 

Earlier this week, claims that the hospital was a‘butchery’ emerged following media reports of severe malpractice.

 

The subsequent visit to this facility by the MEC has done little to quell the DA’s concerns – this after he previously stated that all was well at the hospital.

The MEC cannot pretend that this is the case. Nor can he feign ignorance.

Some eight months ago, the DA received a litany of very serious complaints – many relating to malpractice – which we forwarded to the MEC for response.

After he failed to respond to our correspondence, we took the step of forwarding documentation to the province’s health ombudsman, who has confirmed receipt of this information.

The MEC has stated that he will visit the hospital again.  What he does next will reveal how committed both he and his department are to running a clean ship, where vulnerable people are put first rather than any internal political connections.

The DA will continue to monitor the situation at this hospital.  We trust that the investigation by the health ombudsman will be conducted in an impartial manner in the interests of patients.

 

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COGTA’s curious timing

Opinion Piece by Mergan K. Chetty

DA NCOP CoGTA Spokesperson:

Municipalities put under administration should take Constitutional will and not Political will!

Although the DA welcomes the long overdue decision by the KwaZulu Natal MEC for CoGTA Hon. Nomusa Dube-Ncube to dissolve the Mtubatuba municipal council, we cannot help but question the timing of the MEC’s decision to invoke section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution. The municipality is urgently in need of effective management to improve service delivery and correct budgetary irregularities, but it appears that the ANC has invoked this provision to maintain political control of the municipality.

When Mtubatuba’s council was under ANC control, the MEC was willing to allow for the section 139(1)(b)  intervention initiated in September 2012 – a less serious form of intervention – to be extended until March 2015. However, fifteen days after the ANC/NFP coalition disintegrated on 30 January 2015 and only after the balance of power shifted to the IFP, did the KZN provincial executive committee decide to invoke section 139(1)(c), allowing them to completely dissolve the municipal council.

The DA acknowledges that section 139(1)(c) should only be used in cases where it is clear that the dissolution of the council is the only option to place a dysfunctional municipality on a stable footing, but the dysfunction in Mtubatuba has been apparent since 2012. If the intervention had been undertaken when the first signs of failure emerged it would have reversed the harm done by incessant service delivery breakdowns; been less costly and, with good leadership, been more effective.

The MEC’s failure to act and act decisively, amplifies the concerns raised in the 4th Parliament’s Legacy Report that, “interventions are usually made far too late, when a municipality is about to collapse.” The MEC has plunged Mtubatuba even further into a state of dysfunction by interfering politically to maintain ANC power and impose her decisions.

It is clear that after the provincial government took over certain competencies from the municipality in 2012 in terms of section 139(1) (b) the lives of Mtubatuba’s people have still not changed for the better. By the mayor’s own admission the 175 000 residents of Mtubatuba still do not have access to basic water.  This situation is typical of the ANC’s inability to grasp the need for timeous intervention in troubled municipalities and reflects the ruling party’s lack of commitment to service delivery and improving the lives of the people of KZN.

In Wednesday’s National Council of Provinces Select Committee meeting, where Parliament has the opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise the reasons for section 139 interventions, the MEC’s report indicated that the national minister of CoGTA, Pravin Gordhan, fast-tracked the 139(1)(c) intervention even before it came to the NCOP.

Unlike the DA, the ANC clearly does not respect the will of the electorate. Section 139(1)(c) should only be invoked when it is justified by exceptional circumstances and not only when exceptional circumstances are accompanied by the loss of political power.

Mtubatuba as in the case of Mooi Mpofana local municipality is the second municipality in KZN to be placed under section 139 (1)(c) administration within six months. As the case of Mooi Mpofana, allegations of mismanagement, corruption, infighting and factionalism due to deployed cadres took the focus away from service delivery and the well-being of the community.

The ANC continues to show the residences and ratepayers that the fight for lucrative positions is more important than the interest of the people.

The growing number of KZN municipalities under provincial administration is proof of the devastating consequences of cadre deployment by the majority party. The reality is that failed cadres are redeployed to other spheres of government, whilst the citizens of the country continue to pay for their incompetence. We implore the MEC to guarantee the residents of Mtubatuba that none of the current ANC councillors will be brought back, as happened in the recent elections held in Mooi Mpofana.

The discrepancies between the accounts of the newly elected political leadership of Mtubatuba, the former administrator and the MEC about what is actually going on in the municipality, should raise questions surrounding the political motives behind the dissolution of the council.

With the number of failed municipalities increasing in KZN it is clear that the CoGTA MEC does not have the capacity or competency to run her department. The DA will continue to keep a watchful eye on how the municipalities under administration are managed.

It is time for the people of KZN to make their voices heard and vote for good governance by competent individuals who, unlike ANC deployees, will uphold the Constitution.

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Zuma’s fatherly advice falls on deaf ears

Letter to the Editor for publication 29 January 2014

Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety:

THE issue of undue preferential treatment being given to well-connected African National Congress politicians and their families by the South African Police Services has again been placed in the spotlight.

The latest incident involves reports that the Durban North Police Station failed to arrest Edward Zuma, President’s Jacob Zuma’s eldest son, despite a seven month outstanding warrant of arrest issued by the Pietermaritzburg Maintenance Court.  The warrant stems from the fact that despite being subpoenaed seven times, Mr Zuma has yet to appear before the Court.

The hypocrisy of the Zuma family action cannot be overstated.

During an August 2014 Women’s Day celebration, President Zuma – his father- called on all fathers to support their children voluntarily, without having to involve the government or the courts.

It seems that this fatherly advice has fallen on deaf ears.

Yet again, it appears that there are two sets of rules – one for the ANC ruling elite and their family and another for the rest of South Africa.

Of the utmost concern is the influence of and preferential treatment given to Edward Zuma by the SAPS. This is the government service entrusted by all South Africans to enforce laws and to arrest persons as determined by the courts.

It is unacceptable that despite a valid warrant of arrest and a proper home address that the Durban North Police Station are yet to arrest Mr Zuma after seven months.  Worse still is the fact that they claim to have lost the original warrant – ME95/14 – issued by the Pietermaritzburg Maintenance Court on 23 June 2014.

The situation begs the following questions – did ANC government officials pressure SAPS officials to make this warrant ‘disappear’? And how many other ANC officials or their family members have pending warrants that have not been served?

Our country is a constitutional democracy in which court orders are enforced and equal treatment by the police is guaranteed. Regrettably this is not always the case as a select few with money and political influence within the ruling party seem assured of a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card.

This is absolutely abhorrent and a blatant affront to the principles of our Constitution, for which so many have made huge sacrifices.

The DA in the KZN Legislature will closely monitor the investigation into this issue, recently announced by SAPS and we will ensure that the muddied facts around this debacle are made clear.  We will not allow the ‘preferential treatment’ of a connected member of the so-called elite to impact on the protection and benefit of children or any other vulnerable members of society.

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SADTU’s noticeable silence on the 2014 Matric cheating

MERGAN K CHETTY. MP

DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE.

The following article appeared in the Witness, 23 January 2015.

Garth Gopi raised a very crucial question on Sadtu’s noticeable silence on the 2014 matric cheating, (The Witness, 21 January). While the nation is disgusted at the dishonesty in examination rooms under the “watchful eyes” of invigilators, Sadtu has the nerve  to shift away from the deceitfulness of young South Africans and instead is requesting proof of copying. What utter nonsense is this- since when is a union entitled to evidence of learners’ copying? Sadtu is desperately seeking a way to protect its alleged members that were invigilating in the examination rooms and automatically complicit.

 

The DA is on the alert monitoring the investigations into the corruption now extended to learners. Should the investigations prove conclusively. that Sadtu members were complicit, Sadtu must stand up and be counted by expelling the fraudulent educators, the South African Council of Educators (SACE) must deregister the cheating educators and significantly the Department of Education will have to dismiss educators that have no moral fibre. Sadly, Sadtu is  aligned to the ANC and equally desensitized to corruption and fraud. We all recall, the rumblings of the sale of promotion posts?

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Premier living in an ivory tower

Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison

The shocking utterances by KZN Premier, Senzo Mchunu, at the funeral of Senzo Meyiwa are an insult to the thousands of victims of crime in this province.

During an interview with the BBC he stated that ‘We should not exaggerate the level of crime because it is not like it affects each and every family’.  If ever there was a comment that highlights just how out of touch he and his cabinet are with the majority of communities in our province, then this is it.

The Premier’s statement shows once and for all that he and his executive live in ivory towers with expensive and expansive security in place to protect them and their families.

Rising crime levels do not need to be exaggerated. Nor are they simply invented – they are evident in the government’s own crime statistics. Many thousands of people are directly affected by violent crime on a daily basis with KZN crime levels consistently and unacceptably high.

On a positive note, the DA agrees with the Premier that ‘police [officers] should get out of police stations to fight crime’.  We also commend the scores of hard-working police men and women who strive continuously to keep our communities safe and secure and we most definitely do hear their numerous complaints of lack of support from police leadership.

Disappointingly, the Premier was silent on his own government’s failure to tackle crime levels in the province.   He was also silent about his government’s lack of political leadership on this matter.

With local government elections looming, the Premier should not under-estimate the effect of crime on the people of KZN.  If anything he should be listening to the growing voice of discontent.

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