Sol Plaatje must turn streetlights on for festive season
19 May 2016
Note to Editors: The following debate was delivered by DA alternate Spokesperson on Office of the Premier, Boitumelo Babuseng (MPL), during a sitting of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in Kimberley today.
Today we debate the budget of one of the main strategic roleplayers in the provincial economy. The Office of the Premier may not be regarded as a traditional service delivery department, but its objectives are nonetheless real and necessary for provincial growth. As encapsulated as one of its strategic objectives – the Office of the Premier must strategically manage policies and strategies throughout the province for the achievement of sustainable provincial growth and development as well as monitoring and evaluation of the government programmes of action.
One of the key mandates which must be therefore delivered by the Office of the Premier during this financial year is strategic guidance and support for the development of the Northern Cape, the stimulation of the provincial economy and the upliftment of the people who call it home. So we can measure the success of the Office of the Premier in the quality of life and the quality of the economy which we experience in the province.
Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance supports a free, fair South Africa with access to opportunities for all – where the barriers of the past have been removed, where people are safe from crime, where a growing economy creates jobs and where there are opportunities for our youth.
What we have in the Northern Cape instead is a province with the barriers of the past firmly in place – where there is unequal access to limited opportunities which benefits only a few people, where the threat of violence is ever-present and real, where the expanded unemployment rate is thirty eight per cent and where one in every three households have run out of the funds to purchase food.
To create the Open Opportunity Society for All which the Democratic Alliance advocates, we need an accountable, transparent government which is responsive to the needs of the people – and this begins with the Office of the Premier as the executive authority of the province.
We can address manyof the challenges facing the province if the Office of the Premier decides to finally draft a Provincial Growth and Development Strategy and implement a coherent, feasible plan for economic growth. In the previous financial year, we were given the assurance that the Strategy would be drafted and that the input of various sectors of the community would be sought. This year, we are merely told that “financial constraints” makes it difficult to draft and implement the Strategy.
Honourable Speaker, it is difficult indeed to fathom that there can be financial constraints which can outweigh the importance of implementing a strategy which can remove the barriers of the past, which can reduce violence and which can stimulate the provincial economy for the sustainable creation of opportunities which are accessible to all.
The Western Cape can publish its strategic goals online; this government can’t even get a provincial growth and development strategy together for two years!
By failing to prioritise the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy, Honourable Speaker, the Office of the Premier is failing to hear the cries of our people for Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity.
A dedicate Office of the Premier which is steered and guided by the right leaders can build an accountable, transparent, responsive government. Yet throughout the budget debates, Honourable Speaker, we have heard of serious service delivery concerns and failures – which are also failures in monitoring, evaluation and plain good governance from the Office of the Premier. As the executive authority of the province, an important monitoring and oversight role vests in the Office of the Premier. And we need to ensure that this role is being played to the maximum benefit of our people.
Why is it, for example, that no provincial infrastructure project can be finished within time and on budget? Why is it that so many infrastructure projects, from the mental health hospital to the substance abuse treatment centre, are shrouded in a dark cloud of tender controversy?
Much can be prevented through proper monitoring and oversight. And it is welcome that the Office of the Premier plans to undertake what it calls ‘Frontline Service Delivery Monitoring’ visits throughout the year. But we need to question the efficiency of the intended target, which calculates to one visit every second week. Honourable Speaker, one has to ask, however, how effective one visit every second week will be? Is this target not woefully inadequate if we want to see a real improvement in the quality and quantity of services being delivered by provincial departments?
It is also worrying that the Office of the Premier could give no indication of where they will go and which sites they will visit during the presentation. Instead, we were told that they will piggyback on the national delegates – since the national delegates have the funding to arrange for accommodation and transport, we were told that the Office of the Premier cannot dictate which sites are visited and which are not. In the current fiscal climate, we certainly need to prioritise cost containment where we can. But saving a few cents here and there cannot come at the expense of delivering on core mandates.
Honourable Speaker, the current model followed by the Office of the Premier is definitely no way to ensure that provincial departments are being held to account. Surely we cannot wait for the day that a national delegate decides to visit before we check if our people are being given the opportunities they deserve!
Honourable Speaker, in my experience, the provincial government has come to be regarded as a milking cow for external legal practitioners. It is easy to litigate against the provincial government, for the many mistakes that are being made on a daily basis.
Litigation against the government, especially when preventable, is a costly burden to bear. It is therefore welcome that the Office of the Premier has set itself the goal of reducing litigation against the provincial government by five per cent and of likewise reducing the amount of cases that are lost. We were given the assurance that heads of department are supporting this goal and we want to see that this goal is realised, even exceeded, during the current financial year.
Having participated in the relevant portfolio committee meetings, having raised our reservations and having engaged with the relevant documents, Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance supports the budget vote of the Office of the Premier.
Alternate Spokesperson on Office of the Premier
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