DA asks Labour Minister to investigate ‘slave labour’ of Ace’s Cuban engineers

By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The cohort of Cuban engineers employed by Premier Ace Magashule continue to live in guesthouses across various municipalities while they have not taken up active duty since their arrival in May last year.

As such the salaries, travel and accommodation costs to fund Magashule’s Cuban employment scheme amounts to wasteful expenditure since not a stitch of work has been done.

Moreover, the DA has it on good authority from the Cuban employees that they were told to keep quiet and are not to complain. Some Cubans are showing signs of depression as a result of remaining idle. What is more shocking is that the Cubans have indicated to us that they only receive R8 000.00 per month of their salaries while the balance is allegedly paid to the Cuban Government. This amounts to Human trafficking (slave trade) by the Cuban Government in collusion with the Free State Provincial Government. The DA believes that this is contrary to South African Labour legislation and is in fact criminal.

The total cost to the public purse for employing these 45 Cubans in the Free State over a period of three years is estimated to be almost R110 million.

Individual accommodation inclusive of meals is estimated to be around R180 000.00 annually and a total of about R24 million over their contract period, while salaries of the minimum amount per person of R569 537.00 per annum amounts to a total just short of R77 million and traveling expenses to and from Cuba over three years totals R7,5 million over three years.

In a bid to relegate the costs of funding the Cubans, the Free State Provincial Government last year instructed municipalities to carry these costs. Meanwhile, the many hydraulic engineers employed now at municipalities to build houses are not qualified for this job. Municipalities that are struggling to deliver basic services, such as water and sanitation, simply cannot afford this additional cost while receiving no benefit.

Guesthouse owners who accommodate these engineers have also raised concerns about the lack of, or late payment, by the government of boarding and lodging charges.

I have today written to the National Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, requesting her to investigate what we perceive to be unfair labour practise by the Free State Provincial Government.

The DA maintains that engineers and architects could have been recruited locally at a lower cost to taxpayers while at the same time creating employment for South African professionals. Meanwhile, speculation is rife over where the excess of almost R64 million in salaries over three years will disappear to. Allegations of collusion between Cuban and Free State authorities over these funds are rife.

ANC govt. cars for traditional leaders looks like bribery

By Jacques Smalle MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson COGHSTA:

The DA has noted with dismay that Limpopo Premier, Stan Mathabatha, has awarded 184 traditional leaders from various districts across the province with brand new vehicles to the tune of R89 million during the festive season, in what looks like an attempt to buy votes.

Spending such amount of money on vehicles is a clear indication that ANC is too desperate to get votes and opted to utilize the taxpayer’s coffers to boost their 2016 local government electioneering campaign.

We acknowledge the role that the traditional leaders are playing and agree that they must be supported with necessary tools of trade to lead their communities. The DA will never dispute this.

However, the DA is deeply concerned that traditional leaders are continuously being used and bribed with cars and subsidies to secure their votes for the ANC in government elections.

This proves that ANC is desperate to win the local government elections at all costs to the expense of taxpayers.

This is not the first time the ANC used the similar tactics to win votes.

In 2008, the then-Premier Sello Moloto also awarded the same traditional leaders vehicles, just ahead of the 2009 National elections, as part of the ANC campaign to get votes.

The DA believes that the R89 million could have been much better used to do the following:

  • To improve the bulk infrastructure in various municipalities which is in a broken state
  • To boost draught relieve measures to get food growing and ensure food security
  • To build more than 20 new schools and improve education outcomes
  • To repair roads and bridges destroyed by storms
  • Build more than 600 RDP houses
  • Paying for more than 3000 bursaries

The DA will never allow our respected traditional leaders to be used to pursue their poor communities, by simply being given vehicles while failing to provide our rural people with services such as water and houses.

The DA has already submitted questions in the Provincial Legislature and to the MEC for COGHSTA to establish the whereabouts and state of conditions of the previous vehicles donated in 2008 and the history of their maintenance and where the R89 million has come from.

Luxury R2,3 million Merc sees Ace one step closer to turning the FS into a Banana Republic

By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The purchase of a R2,3 million luxury Mercedes-Benz S600L (V222) at a cost of R2,3 million including R52,000 in extras such as a panoramic sunroof and entertainment centre is the latest indication that the ANC-led Free State Provincial Government under the premiership of Ace Magashule is turning the province into a Banana Republic.

This latest spending spree comes merely three weeks after Premier Magashule delivered six brand new Mercedes-Benzes, at a cost to the public purse of R3,2 million, to Free State Traditional Leaders, in a bid to extend his patronage network.

The justification for the purchase of this latest Mercedes-Benz S600L in that the vehicle will be used by foreign diplomats and politicians when visiting the Free State just does not make sense. Foreign diplomats and politicians visiting the Free State would be far more impressed by effective and accountable governance, the rule of law and an environment conducive to investment opportunities, and not by a flashy luxury car.

In fact, nothing screams Banana Republic more loudly than transporting foreign dignitaries in a luxury Mercedes Benz while the people of the Free State have to suffer poor service delivery, poverty and unemployment. Such a vehicle reflects a government that has poor priorities and will abuse foreign investment and aid for patronage and personal purposes.

The provincial government is in fiscal denial over its serious cash flow problems, specifically relating to the departments of Education, Health and Social Development. In addition, the Free State is currently experiencing the worst drought in decades while the province have to contend with a water crisis brought about by the ANC-led government’s non-existent water management capabilities and deteriorating water infrastructure as a result of a lack in maintenance.

This R2,3 million could have gone a long way towards alleviating the impact of the drought and water crisis in our hard-hit rural communities.

The people of the Free State will continue to suffer under an uncaring government who are more concerned about impressing foreign politicians and diplomats, than about delivering effective services, sound governance, and creating an environment conducive towards investment.

The DA calls on the people of the Free State to reject the continued abuse of power and public funds by the ANC and their cronies, come election day next year, and to vote for the DA who is the only party in government that delivers for all, that drives back unemployment, that uplifts people from poverty and that empowers individuals to become proud, productive and successful citizens.

Public Service Commission closes net on Gauteng MECs

By Mike Moriarty MPL, DA Chief Whip in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature:

The DA welcomes the move by the Public Service Commission (PSC) compelling several Gauteng MECs to take action against Heads of Department (HODs) who have failed to recover millions of rand worth of public money lost due to financial misconduct.

In tabling its report before the Gauteng Legislature last month, the PSC alarmingly noted that of 121 cases of financial misconduct, only 3% of individuals were criminally charged.

To date, of the R67 million that has gone missing, either through corrupt business practices, theft or negligence – only R 6000 has been recovered.

While Gauteng Premier David Makhura claims his administration is taking a hard line on corruption and financial misconduct, the facts speak for themselves, and neither the DA, nor the PSC are convinced, which is why the PSC, in writing, issued a directive and insist that concrete evidence be provided over action taken.

To this end, the DA will submit written questions to the MECs for e-Governance, economic development, roads and transport, infrastructure development and social development upon Legislature’s reopening in 2016 – asking for progress reports on the PSC’s recommendations.

The DA will continue to pursue this matter and offer all our cooperation to the PSC to ensure that public funds are recovered and that the individuals involved in are brought to book.

Gauteng premier has no political will to fight corruption

By Mike Moriarty MPL, DA Chief Whip in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature:

Gauteng premier David Makhura today tried to spin his way out of questions demanding why so few government officials were criminally charged for financial misconduct, while others remain largely unpunished during the 2014/15 financial year.

The DA quizzed the premier over findings by the Public Service Commission (PSC) that only 3% of provincial government officials involved in 122 cases of financial misconduct amounting to R67 million are facing criminal charges.

In his reply, the premier claimed that criminal charges could only be pressed once internal disciplinary and appeals processes were finalised, despite promising on numerous occasions that he would take a tough stance on corruption.

The premier is wrong. If criminal conduct is suspected, criminal charges must be laid, and police must investigate.

There is no legal precedent that forces government to complete internal procedures before pressing criminal charges – unless the premier doubts the police’s ability to sufficiently investigate such charges.

The premier also completely misinterpreted the PSC’s findings by claiming that 3% of the 122 were successfully prosecuted, when in fact only criminal charges were pressed.

While trying to paint a picture of his administration being at the forefront in the war on corruption, the picture that emerged was that of a premier ill-prepared and out of touch with reality.

Today the truth finally emerged. Premier Makhura does not have the political will to fight corruption and cannot deliver on his promises of the past 17 months.

The question now is how many other promises will be broken.

Mayor Jordaan uses municipal resources for political gain

By Retief Odendaal, DA Caucus Leader: Nelson Mandela Bay:

Mayor Jordaan’s attendance at an ANC event in Kensington last night, where he was introduced as “The Mayor”, is an abuse of municipal resources and public funds, for political gain.

Mayor Jordaan attended the ANC event, which did not aim to serve the people of NMB, with a full complement of bodyguards on overtime, in two Mayoral vehicles.

Mayor Jordaan has followed in President Zuma’s footsteps by putting the ANC first at the expense of the needs of everyday South Africans here in Nelson Mandela Bay, by spending public money and using state resources on political events.

NMB needs a Mayor who respects the importance of spending public money on basic service delivery. As we have seen with the proposal to increase the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Speaker and Chief Whip’s staff complement by over 40 people, and now with the use of public funds and municipal resources at political events, it is clear that Mayor Jordaan has abandoned his duty to serve the people of NMB.

The DA will continue to hold the Mayor to account in respect of the use of public funds, and will ensure that the abuse of municipal resources doesn’t go unchallenged.

Why the festivities to welcome back Premier Mabuza?

By James Masango MPL, DA Mpumalanga Leader:

Why all the fuss and festivities in welcoming back Premier David Mabuza to his job?.

Premier Mabuza who is expected to resume his duties today, has been out of action for more than two months, after he had been on sick leave.

Mabuza’s leadership has been marred with large scale corruption, and the DA believes that nothing will improve under his reign.

Mpumalanga is one of the poorest regions with one of the worst records in service delivery, and our health care facilities continue to deteriorate. Some poor rural community are still without electricity, water, roads and employment remains high.

This should be the focus of the Premier, and not using taxpayers money to bus people to the legislature from various parts of the province, just to welcome him back in office.

(Click here to see pictures)

This action by the ANC is scandalous and outrages. Premier Mabuza has once again proven that he can use his power to influence anything that would benefit him. As long as he’s in that position no one will oppose him, as he is a feared man.

The Premier is desperate to tighten the grip of power and influence he has over his comrades in Mpumalanga.

The DA will ask the Premier questions regarding the funds used to bus ANC members to Nelspruit to welcome him back from sick leave.

The DA wishes Premier Mabuza good health, and the provincial leader plans to pay him a courtesy visit soon.

MEC must give costs for ‘5 star’ committee meeting plus accommodation

By Francois Rodgers, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance:

THE DA will today submit a written parliamentary question to KZN Finance MEC, Belinda Scott, questioning the cost of a portfolio committee meeting and accommodation for MPL’s and staff at a five star hotel in Durban.

The move is in direct contradiction of austerity measures imposed by KZN’s Treasury.

Committee members and staff were given short notice to attend an 8am meeting at the hotel this morning which ended up taking all of thirty minutes.

The irony of the date and time of the meeting is that the ANC in KZN had a planned caucus for 9am, also in Durban.

The DA notes this coincidence with concern.

Recent uttering’s by President Zuma are hardly cold when the KZN Legislature, by its actions, indicates that it too puts the ANC ahead of the people of our province.

To date, KZN’s Finance portfolio committee has only ever met at the legislature precinct and has led the way in implementing austerity measures in the province.

Today, the ANC in KZN set a dangerous precedent.

It chose party over province.

One can only hope this will not become the norm with the election of a new KZN ANC provincial leadership.

As public servants, province and country and the interests of our people must always be placed first and party interests second.

The DA has shown this in the Western Cape where we govern.

Should the ANC in KZN ignore this, the people of our province will be heard at the ballot box in 2016.

Gauteng’s open tender system a sham

By Adriana Randall MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Finance:

Gauteng’s open tender system is nothing more than a catchphrase for finance MEC Barbara Creecy, with very little evidence of it being as open as claimed.

During a DA debate in the Gauteng Legislature over cross-departmental sharing of information regarding the details poor performing contractors, MEC Creecy argued this would not be necessary as the transparency stemming from the open tender system would thwart this problem.

However, the open tender system has thus far been less than open.

Since its initial launch, at the Cedar Road upgrade and the subsequent Provincial Banking tender, little public information has been made available around its existence.

Navigating the website is cumbersome, incomplete documentation is stored in obscure places and timelines are left open-ended.

For the tenders that are available, MEC Creecy has been asked to provide names, qualifications and declarations of interest for members of the bid adjudication and evaluation committees.

To date, this information has been stonewalled with the MEC sighting “confidentiality” as the reason for not indicating who these committee members are.

If the system is to be as open and transparent as residents of Gauteng are to be led to believe – then why shroud the process in secrecy?

Or is this tender system another initiative that has been tainted to favour a few well connected individuals?

Ditsobotla: Breeding nest for corruption, bribes and malfunctioning?

By Jacqueline Theologo MPL, DA North West Spokesperson on Local Government and Constituency Head, Ditsobotla:

The Democratic Alliance in Ditsobotla’s is concerned that blatant corruption and incompetence by ANC officials contribute to the decay of this already suffering municipality.

Despite water shortages, serious infrastructure challenges, an Eskom bill that is R121 million in arrears, officials seem to have sufficient time to scheme and use their influence to only satisfy their own needs.

While this community is suffering under their poor management, the Acting Municipal Manager Chief Financial Officer and Speaker are amongst officials who are implicated in soliciting bribes from a contractor who has an agreement to do debt collection for the Ditsobotla Municipality.

Widespread media reports (which can be accessed here) on the alleged corruption cannot be ignored and the Democratic Alliance will demand a full internal investigation on the allegations in the next council meeting.

Although the contractor laid official criminal charges, the Ditsobotla council cannot simply turn a blind eye to such serious allegations as this municipality ranks under the top 20 defaulting municipalities in the country.

The Democratic Alliance will furthermore write a letter to the MEC for Local Government urging him to investigate the matter as well. The DA will put questions before the North West Provincial Legislature to ensure that this matter is not simply being covered up to protect ANC cadres again.

The North West is continuously making headlines for all the wrong reasons and the DA believes in order to have an open, fair and free society government officials should serve the people of the province and not their own greedy needs.

Efficient public administration and sound governance are critical enablers for creating an Open Opportunity Society. Too many of our institutions are abused by the governing party that are more focussed on serving their own interest than serving South Africa.

Where we govern, our service delivery records and governance outcomes show we are committed to spend public money in the interest of the people.