DA reiterates calls to COGHSTA to help keep the lights on in local municipalities

By Ismail Obaray, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of SCOPA:

The DA is reiterating our call to MEC Alvin Botes to urgently place the Renosterberg Local Municipality under administration in terms of section 139 of the Constitution.

We are also calling for high level interventions into the Thembelhile, Ubuntu, Magareng and Dikgatlong municipalities.

This follows the publication of notices of disconnection of bulk electricity supplies to Renosterberg on Monday, 25 January 2016, and to the other municipalities on Friday, 29 January.

The DA is aggrieved that, despite commitments made by MEC of COGHSTA, Alvin Botes, as well as National Minister of COGHSTA, David Van Rooyen that they would assist municipalities which are indebted to Eskom in a move to prevent electricity disconnections, the lights are still going to be switched off.

It’s clear that words are cheap and Eskom’s tariffs are not.

The DA first called for Renosterberg municipality to be placed under administration in June last year, after the municipality was exposed as being the worst performing municipality in the province in the latest section 47 report. Amongst other problems, it came to light that cash flow was seriously constrained and there was a problem with numerous faulty accounts as well as water and electricity losses.

Shortly thereafter, the Mayor of Renosterberg Municipality, Zet Kwinana, was redeployed elsewhere and promises were made that better suited leadership would resolve the challenges.

However, after six months and repeated calls to provincial COGHSTA for interventions, the municipality still does not have a strategy to make adequate arrangements to cover its outstanding payments to Eskom.

Despairingly, similar situations prevail in Thembelhile, Ubuntu, Magareng and Dikgatlong municipalities as well.

It is not fair that the people living in these Northern Cape towns have to suffer as a result of local government’s incompetence. Electricity is our primary source of heat and light.  Without it people struggle to cook, study and so forth and without it there will be dire repercussions for industry and our economy.

The DA believes it is government’s moral duty, as enshrined in the Constitution, to ensure that everyone has access to the basic services they need to improve their lives.

Where the DA governs we work to ensure that all creditors of the municipality are paid within legal timeframes, and in the Western Cape DA municipalities pay their Eskom bills on time.

Hopes of high level interventions in ailing Northern Cape municipalities look futile. The only real and long term hope for residents of the Northern Cape now is to vote out ANC councils and vote in the DA so that we can keep the lights on and do for the people of this province what the DA-run municipalities in the Western Cape are doing for their people.

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GAAL CEO must undergo disciplinary

By Jacques Smalle MPL, DA Spokesperson on SCOPA:

The DA will write to the Limpopo MEC for Transport, Mapula Mokaba Phukwane to investigate disciplinary steps against the CEO of Gateway Airports Authority Limited  (GAAL), Thulani Zulu with immediate effect.

In a reply to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) yesterday, the CEO revealed that the entity procured goods and services from more than 35 companies and worth more than more than R7 million without seeking their valid tax clearance certificates for the financial years of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015.

These companies include prominent IT, construction, travelling, catering, architects, security, media and vehicle providers. The money was regarded as  irregular expenditure by the Auditor General’s (AG) report released early this year.

In the 2013/2014 , the AG further discovered that :

  • The entity is the defendant in various lawsuits and pending legal cases to the tune of more than R3 million
  • fruitless and wasteful expenditure of more than R1.2 million incurred
  • Assets worth more than R124 million cannot be verified
  • Financial statements for auditing were submitted without proper records of procurements
  • No action was taken against any officials responsible for the irregular, and wasteful expenditure as required by the section 51 of the PFMA

The committee was openly dissatisfied with the CEO who continuously blamed most of AG’s findings on GAAL’s internal capacity constraints rather than taking responsibility.

The embattled CEO was lambasted by the committee and he was clearly unprepared and unwilling to accept the accountability for the mess at GAAL.

His competency to act as the CEO was questioned by the chairperson of the committee.

Failure to effectively manage an entity such as GAAL which ideally should boosts the provincial economy, is proof of the ANC cadre deployment failing without considering skills, experience and accountability of appointed persons.

The DA believes that taxpayer’s money should be used for the benefit of all people, not to the connected few.

The DA will continue to be proactive in seeking accountability for mismanaged state-owned entities.

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DA’s SCOPA report on 2014/15 Department of Health annual performance

The following speeches were delivered in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature today by the DA’s Glenda Steyn MPL and Paul Willemburg MPL during the SCOPA report 2014/15 annual performance of the Department of Health.

Speech by
Glenda Steyn MPL

“Department of Health diagnosed as terminally ill”

  • How can it be, in the 21st century, in this technological age, that the Gauteng Department of Health has inferior patient records and information systems?
  • The Department acknowledges that they experience regular system interruptions which results in backlogs in capturing patient records. This is a problem for which solutions were developed not only in the last decade but in the last millennium.
  • The slow rate of improvement can never keep up with an ever growing population and the speed at which medical science moves. Are we, the residents of Gauteng, fated with an inadequate public health care system for the next 20 years?
  • The only way we can save this department is with a change of government. Roll on 2019!

 

The full speech can be obtained here.

Speech by

Paul Willemburg MPL

“Lack of political will impairing the improvement of the department”

  • Year after year we are told of the wonderful measures and interventions that have been put in place to improve the situation.  The buzz phrase ‘Turn-around-Strategy’ has been bandied about so many times that one wonders if officials in this Department know which way they are facing.
  • Medical Liabilities in the year under review amounted to R71 million; up from the R42 million in 2013/14 and R10 million in 2012/13.
  • We still find that invoices are not paid within the legislated 30 days amounting to approximately R556 million.

The full speech can be obtained here

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It is time that political leadership translated into political accountability

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

Scopa today presents to this House some 60 resolutions for adoption, some specific to departments and others transversal in their application.  The resolutions represent the work of the committee in processing the audit findings of the AGSA for 2014/15.  I want to record a word of appreciation to the chairperson Hon Govender and the members of the committee, the legislature support staff and the representatives of the AG’s office for tackling this work with dedication and commitment.

With that in mind I want to say a few things about the link between good oversight and good governance.  Oversight and the work of Scopa has become an all year round activity with each cycle of reports generating a further set of follow up resolutions.

Political parties and particularly those new to power suffer from the well-meaning assumption that whatever mess they inherited from a previous administration can be sorted out quickly.

The DA learned when we took over our first major administration, the City of Cape Town in 2006, that turning around a super tanker takes time, and even once you get the ship going again in a different direction, it takes constant effort to keep the standards of governance high.

I know the majority party in this province found the same when they took over KZN, and it was only after a few years and a great deal of fiscal discipline by the provincial treasury and the MEC of the time that governance started improving.

The point is that good governance doesn’t just happen; it requires strong oversight to keep the executive accountable and this must be repeated year after year.  MECs need to recognise that strong Scopa oversight helps them, because good governance translates into future election successes.  That is why we are so happy that the Western Cape heads the national PFMA table with 83% clean audits of departments and entities as opposed to 22% in this province.  Good oversight leads to good governance and good governance makes voters happy.

Scopa hearings involve interrogating the accounting officers and senior officials in terms of their PFMA responsibilities.  It also means considering the work of executive authorities, the MECs and Boards who must ensure that senior officials comply with the PFMA and Treasury regulations.  Political deployees on a committee such as Scopa don’t like focussing too much attention on their ministers and I suspect that Luthuli House takes a very dim few of any majority party member who gets carried away with pursuing ministerial accountability, but the fact remains that this is a necessary part of our work.  In this respect the DA is not much different to the ANC.  We are both parties of government and there has to be a creative tension between our executive members and our members of oversight bodies such as Scopa.

In the AG’s 2014/15 PFMA findings for KZN 15% of executive authorities are said to provide limited assurance while a further 32% provide only some assurance and could improve.  The root causes of the negative audit findings in 88% of cases in KZN (up from 82% in 2013/14) is and I quote the AG, ‘slow responses by management including accounting officers and senior management’.  And whose job is it to ensure that accounting officers do their jobs?  Yes, the MECs.

We need to be pushing our MECs to hold their HODs and CFOs accountable, and if they don’t then there must be consequences.  Performance bonuses need to be withheld, and if necessary contracts abruptly terminated.  Better a cadre out of work than a qualified audit opinion.

For example, what happened in the Department of Arts and Culture?  This department has been qualified every year since 2012/13 on property, plant and equipment.  Yet the HOD and the CFO have both been in their positions for at least the last two years.  Hasn’t the MEC noticed that there is a problem?  Clearly something needs to change if the department is to get out of its rut.

But the biggest problems identified by the audits are covered as usual by the transversal resolutions.  Here the problem is that these are repeat findings, and our resolutions indicate how long these findings have been repeated.

We have been asking for disciplinary consequences for the perpetrators of irregular expenditure for four years.  We have been expressing concern about IT findings for five years and material misstatements for as long as I have been a member of Scopa.

It is these repeat findings that are especially frustrating and where we need MEC interventions urgently.  It cannot simply be business as usual in many departments where non-compliance has become the norm.  There must be consequences and it is up to the MECs to make these consequences carry some weight.  Education has recently showed some improvement but Health and Transport still have a long way to go to get unqualified audits and these departments spend a huge proportion of the KZN budget.

It’s time that political leadership also translated into political accountability.

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Scopa forced to cancel Community Safety hearing as department fails to submit Annual Report

By Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety:

LAST week’s KZN Community Safety Scopa hearing had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour after the department failed to submit its Annual Report on time.

 

The administrative bungle follows claims earlier this year that the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was in fact was employed by two different provincial departments at the same time. The department currently has an acting CFO.

 

That this department did not supply financial statements and or an annual report shows contempt for the Legislature and its oversight mechanisms.

 

The events of last week are indicative of a department in crisis.   They also reveal a lack of leadership and political will to keep our communities safe from crime and violence.

 

KZN’s residents deserve a Community Safety department capable of keeping them safe.

This requires a department that can manage its finances so that community policing structures are properly funded and functional and the South African Police Services are held to account.

More than ever KZN needs the aspects set out in the DA’s Community Safety Bill. Amongst others, this Bill advocates;

  • The creation of a police Ombud to investigate inefficiencies and breakdowns in relations between the community and the police
  • Mandatory reports from the Provincial Police Commissioner on matters such as: lost and stolen firearms, death of police officials in the execution of their duties, death by police action and in police custody, the allocation of funds and resources, quarterly reports on numbers of arrests, cases referred to court, prosecutions and convictions, complaints regarding police conduct and service delivery
  • Improved police response to the safety concerns that exist in our communities
  • Directives regarding the establishment of CPFs [Community Policing Forums] and CPF board with a view to depoliticising and strengthening local oversight of this entity

KZN’s people deserve a government which follows the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all and which ensures that crime is reduced and communities prosper in a safe environment.

 

The DA will continue to monitor this department.  It must commit to transparency and accountability.

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MEC must stop performance bonuses for relevant senior staff

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

TODAY, KZN Transport MEC, Willies Mchunu chose not to attend his own department’s annual Scopa oversight hearing, instead opting to go to an in-house Sukume Sakhe function.

That he chose to avoid this important performance enquiry, which follows the Auditor-General’s report, speaks volumes about his priorities.

Today’s hearing revealed that KZN’s Transport department;

–          Has two qualifications within its audit with six other matters

–          Faces potentially huge irregular expenditure after the Auditor-General found massive non-disclosure by the department

–          Used 38 consultants at a cost of R937million – a moved questioned by the AG.

This department has gone from a clean audit to a qualified audit for the past two years. This regression is extremely serious.  It is money that could have been spent improving KZN’s road network amongst others.

Had the MEC attended today, he would have been confronted by a united Scopa, one which declared his department’s response to audit findings as ‘hopelessly inadequate’.

The DA expects MEC Mchunu to send out a very clear signal that this regression is unacceptable.  To start with he must withhold performance bonuses from all relevant senior staff.

The DA expects nothing less.  This department must get back on track.

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Snap debate on the consideration and adoption of SCOPA reports

The following speech was delivered by Jacques Smalle DA MPL, to the Limpopo Provincial Legislature on 20 October 2015 during a debate on the consideration and adoption of the SCOPA reports on financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2014.

Madam Speaker

The Standing committee on public accounts has a significant, constitutionally mandated role to play in enhancing oversight and accountability for the use of public funds.

The role of SCOPA is to

  • Scrutinise the use of public funds on behalf of the legislature
  • Ensures that government departments and public entities effectively, efficiently and economically use the available resources without compromising quality service delivery for the benefit of the public
  • Ensure accountability for non-compliance

Madam Speaker whereas SCOPA is very good at identifying the non-compliance, it lacks greatly in enforcing accountability.

During the SCOPA hearings last year resolution were taken on all provincial departments which had to be implemented by 30 September 2015.

To date it is unclear whether this deadline was met, but if previous years are anything to go by, most of the resolutions will not be implemented and no one will be held accountable.

This house needs to admit to itself that if SCOPA cannot execute its mandate, which is to hold the executive to account for misusing or abusing public funds, then SCOPA is nurturing the reoccurring bad practices which are haunting our departments.

Definite trends were identified in most departments including:

  • Material underspending
  • Poor financial and administrative control resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure and irregular expenditure
  • Poor leadership
  • Poor governance
  • Very poor record keeping
  • Lack of proper asset management
  • Internal control deficiencies
  • Ineffective human resource management
  • State conducting business with family members

The department of health’s budget allocation was R13 billion, which is 27% of the provincial equitable share.

The AG highlighted R870 million of irregular expenditure and R401 million due to inadequate collection of patient and staff debts were incurred.

With a vacancy rate of 53% this mismanagement is highly surprising and quite frankly to be expected.

The DA would also like to know if a breakdown of the R39 million in bonuses was ever received as instructed by SCOPA in October last year. I challenge SCOPA to execute its expectation that the SM’s must resign if there is no improvement in this embattled department.

Madam Speaker

The elephant in the room is the department of education that still struggles can’t disclose their R2.2 bn of immovable assets. Still could not verify the payments of the nearly R19,4 m salary bill. Could not supply R49.3 m of supporting documents. With irregular expenditure in the last 2 years of R2,9 Bn.

If it wasn’t for our educators on the ground who has to work with crumbs and at times perform miracles with our school children, then there is actually nothing to look forward to except a mummy that should have been buried a long time ago.

Section 38(1) a (iii) of the PQFMA requires the entity to implement and maintain appropriate procurement and provisioning system which is fair, equitable, transparent and cost effective. Section 100 could not rescue the department of education now the Hon Rob Tooley under treasury is trying to implement good financial systems.

Let me remind him the systems are only as good as the people who manage them. The time has come to do away with unwanted worn-out furniture.

Madam Speaker, the citizens of Limpopo are entitled to good governance and buck stops with this house. The public expects SCOPA to act swiftly, decisively and in the best interest of the citizens Limpopo.

The executive is far too soft and lenient when it comes to accountability, as long as officials and politicians are given written warnings and slaps on the wrist we will not see progress, we will not see service delivery.

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Social Development department can’t account for assets including vehicles and laptops

By Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Social Development:

DURING a Scopa hearing last week into KZN’s Department of Social Development (DSD) it emerged that the department does not have a proper asset management system in place, with senior officials unable to properly account for assets including vehicles, desks and laptops.

The DA is extremely concerned by the effect that this will have on service delivery.

These items form a vital part of any social worker’s arsenal in fighting the social deprivation issues which plague our vulnerable communities. The finding also raises serious questions around whether the social workers and other officials on the ground have the proper equipment allocated to them.

The asset predicament is the latest in a series of crises to hit KZN’s Social Development department.  These include;

–          The Auditor-General’s recent decision to downgrade the department to a qualified audit outcome

–          The closure of four KZN DSD offices earlier this year after they were condemned by the Department of Labour due to their appalling state

–          The ongoing matter of 1 700 Social Worker graduate bursary holders who remain unemployed despite the sector facing a desperate shortage.

Yet another embarrassment for the department was the withdrawal of a 6% NGO tariff increase allegedly due to financial constraints.  As a result, the department announced that it would institute a NGO rationalisation plan – a move that is set to see a number of NGOs close.

KZN’s Social Development department is stumbling from one crisis to another with the lack of leadership and accountability by MEC Weziwe Thusi and senior officials increasingly apparent.

The DA will hold MEC Thusi and senior officials to account on the regression of the audit outcome at the next portfolio committee.

We will also write to the Chairperson of the DSD portfolio committee requesting that the department provide a detailed report of its asset management system, the impact on service delivery and the consequences for those responsible for this regression.

During this time of increased social deprivation and poverty levels, KZN needs a government which cares properly for its most vulnerable citizens by providing a social development programme that uplifts our communities.

Only a social development system built on Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity can do this.

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Alarm bells ring for KZN Education at Scopa hearing

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

ACCESS and user controls around data and IT governance within KZN’s Education department are threatening to compromise the security of records currently under the management of the department.

This was the message from Auditor-General Kimi Makwethu’s office during a Scopa hearing into KZN’s education department earlier today.

The Scopa committee also heard that the department has not instituted investigations into senior managers responsible for irregular expenditure, as required by an earlier Scopa resolution

Alarm bells should be ringing for MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and her department.

The information provided by the A-G’s report this morning speaks to a department that lacks quality management and which needs to make good on its undertakings.

The DA expects an immediate assurance from MEC Nkonyeni that data relating to schools – whether academic or otherwise – is reliable and protected.

The many thousands of learners in our province deserve nothing less.

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Renosterberg must fully disclose Eskom repayment plan

By Ismail Obaray MPL DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of SCOPA:

The DA wants Renosterberg municipality to make a full disclosure regarding its payment plan to settle its debt with Eskom.

While we welcome the eventual signing of a payment agreement between Renosterberg municipality and Eskom, which has in effect deferred the power utility from switching off power to thousands of residents in Petrusville, Van der Kloof and Phillipstown this coming Friday, we believe it is crucial that there is transparency with regards to this agreement.

This is especially so given that Renosterberg Mayor, Johannes Oliphant, has reportedly said that the municipality has a plan detailing how they intend paying off the R22 million debt to Eskom but that they could not divulge this plan. This does not represent open, accountable and transparent government.

The finances of this municipality have come under much scrutiny since it came to light earlier this year that the municipality was exposed as being the worst performing municipality in the province in the latest section 47 report. Other problems also surfaced, including that cash flow was seriously constrained, they were faced with mounting debts and there was a problem with numerous faulty accounts, as well as water and electricity losses.

Given Renosterberg’s poor financial track record, this local government institution can ill afford to conduct its affairs behind a veil of secrecy. They have, after all, previously defaulted on a prior settlement agreement with Eskom.

Given that Coghsta is currently assisting the municipality with its financial affairs, the DA has today written to Coghsta MEC, Alvin Botes, asking that he publicises Renosterberg’s payment plan. He must also tell us from where this embattled municipality is receiving funding to pay the monthly instalments of R500 000.

The people of Renosterberg have had a narrow escape from the darkness. Government must keep the lights on by conducting its business in an open and transparent manner and not behind closed doors.

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