NORTHERN CAPE PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURE
ANDREW LOUW, MPL
Hon. Speaker, Acting Premier, Hon. Members, guests in the gallery, the media
Whilst traditionally I have tended to end the year by reflecting on both the highlights and the lowlights of the past 12 months, I am regretfully of the view that this year, in the Northern Cape, the negatives have by far outshone the positives. Hon. Speaker, the truth hurts, but ignoring reality destroys. My words today may thus be harsh but if I were to soften the blow, I would not be doing this House any favours, and I would most definitely not be doing justice to the people of the Northern Cape, who have entrusted me with a very important oversight role.
Hon. Speaker, I have dubbed 2012 as “the year that the wheels came off in the Northern Cape”, as it is my submission that the current administration’s sins of the past 17 years have culminated in a distinct breakdown of government services in the province. By sins, Hon. Speaker, I am referring to the rot, the political corruption and the resultant gross inefficiencies that have brought too many government services to their knees.
Political corruption can be summed up as the use of power by public representatives and officials for illegitimate private gain, and it comes in many forms:
- Patronage refers to favoring supporters with, for example, government employment. It can be seen as corruption if it means that incompetent persons are selected before more able ones, as a payment for supporting the regime. Sound familiar anyone?
- Embezzlement meanwhile can be defined as the outright theft of entrusted funds. A common type of embezzlement it that of personal use of government resources, for example when an official assigns public employees to renovate his or her own house. Sound familiar anyone?
- On a similar note, a kickback is an official’s share of misappropriated funds allocated from his or her own organization to an organization involved in corrupt bidding. For example, suppose that a politician is in charge of choosing how to spend some public funds. He can give a contract to a company that is not the best bidder, or allocate more than they deserve. In this case, the company benefits, and in exchange for betraying the public, the official receives a kickback payment. Sound familiar anyone?
Hon. Speaker, I have little doubt that no one here today had to strain their minds very hard to think of fitting provincial examples relevant to each of these three types of corruption. Disturbingly, there are many more types of corruption mentioned on Wikipedia and, as in the cases previously mentioned, they also all read like a page from the book of the Northern Cape government. And that, Hon. Speaker is the really alarming thing!
When, dare I ask, did the Northern Cape become the epitome of corruption, as defined in a worldwide dictionary? The unfortunate answer, Hon, Speaker, is when we, as the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, weren’t looking.
Corruption, Hon. Speaker, generates economic distortions in the public sector by diverting public investments into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful. Officials may increase the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal or pave the way for such dealings, thus further distorting investments. Corruption also lowers compliance with construction, environmental, or other regulations, increases budgetary pressures on government and, as we have all experienced, reduces the quality of infrastructure and government services.
In fact, we only have to look at the education crisis in the John Taole Gaetsewe district whereby thousands of children were robbed of a quality education because of empty promises made by a highly inefficient government. Or the Kimberley water crisis, whereby citizen’s basic rights to water were infringed upon due to incompetence. Or the degenerating audit outcomes. Or the more recent veld fires which saw a lack luster response from government and in turn destroyed up to 215 000 hectares of grazing land in the Northern Cape.
Hon. Speaker, we have too many people in government who are there for themselves and not for the people of this province.
Journalist, Gert Coetzee, summed this phenomenon up nicely in his editorial. Hy s? in sy artikel “Trots ANC, trots korrup”:
“John Block en ander Noord-Kaapse ANC hoofkamerade betrokke is in drie korrupsie hofsake gelyk. Hy bly trots aan as ‘n Noord-Kaapse LUR. En ‘n ANC-faksie sê hulle staan trots by hom.”
Hon. Speaker, is this the democracy that we fought so hard to achieve, a democracy in which corruption undermines freedom and good governance? The answer is undoubtedly a resounding “no”!
Hon. Speaker, it may be that it is not the members of the legislature that execute government policies but rather appointed officials, employed in a variety of institutions and organizations in much the same way, it is these appointed officials that use public resources to deliver services to the community. Ultimately, it is therefore these officials that must account regarding what has been done with public funds and resources, and what has been achieved in this process.
However, at the same time, this kind of accountability can only achieved in terms of a statutory framework, whereby we, as the legislature, must demand accountability from accounting officers.
We must therefore concede, Hon. Speaker, that where government fails, the legislature has also failed in its role to demand accountability from government institutions. As we look to 2013, I therefore would like to propose that we make a new priority for ourselves as the key oversight body of the Northern Cape administration.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day”.
Let us give this cause precedence in 2013 because only when state resources are properly and efficiently allocated, will government services improve.
In closing, allow me to leave you with a thought provoking quote by democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi:
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
With these words, Hon. Speaker, I would like to wish you and fellow members of this House a safe and enjoyable festive season and a prosperous New Year.
I would also like to make a special request to all MEC’s to secure their offices over the holiday period, as the DA will have much work to do when we take over in 2014, and wouldn’t like to waste valuable time putting basic office measures in place at the expense of improving service delivery.