DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE : ANDREW LOUW
Honourable Speaker, Honourable acting Premier, Honourable Members of the House, guests in the gallery, members of the media
Ultimately, this office must be the engine room of all internal government processes so that other departments can focus on delivery at the coalface. In this respect, the Democratic Alliance notices and appreciates determined efforts to internally strengthen the Office of the Premier in the Northern Cape.
Hon. Speaker, it appears that this office finally has a vision and a plan. Let me emphasize, however, that a vision isn’t good enough unless it is bold, and strives to be the best. And that a plan alone won’t do the job, unless it is a plan which recognizes that a clean, well-run and efficient state is crucial to creating the conditions for job-creating growth, and unless the plan is being fully operationalized.
While the DA has picked up on aspects of a good plan within the current transitionary framework of the Office of the Premier, allow me, Hon. Speaker to outline the requirements of what the DA considers to be a winning plan for the Office of the Premier. These include:
- Setting high standards across government departments and making sure government meets them;
- Aligning processes and spending less money on internal processes so that there is far more actual service delivery;
- And cutting out unnecessary inefficiencies.
Hon. Speaker, I have formulated my debate around these three requirements and will now proceed to speak to each one of them.
1. Setting high standards across government departments and making sure government meets them:
In respect of setting high standards across government departments and making sure government meets these standards, it is critical that the Premier’s Office be in a position o monitor and evaluate the implementation of government’s strategic objectives.
In this regard, the DA welcomes the setting up of a Monitoring and Evaluation System by the Office of the Premier.
In a similar vein, the Western Cape government has established the Executive Provincial Dashboard that gives at-a-glance information on any given project and red flags those projects that are falling behind schedule or running over budget. We hope the Northern Cape’s system will meet these high standards, and also eventually be made available to members of provincial government, to all Northern Cape municipalities, and ultimately to members of the public, so that they too can check the progress of projects that affect them and hold government accountable if necessary. If this is achieved, Hon. Speaker, it will indeed take government responsiveness and accountability to a whole new level.
2. Aligning processes and spending less money on internal processes so that there is far more actual service delivery:
Hon. Speaker, in response to aligning processes, I cannot stress enough the importance of coordination. The DA would thus like propose that the Office of the Premier considers implementing a system to coordinate implementation of provincial strategic objectives. To this end, we suggest undertaking a review of the Western Cape’s Provincial Transversal Management System which has been successfully implemented and already begun to show great value in integrating government policies, programmes and ultimately, service delivery on issues such as roads safety, alcohol abuse and early childhood development.
At the same time, Honourable Speaker, the DA wants to propose that the Office of the Premier begins to look at a shared services approach in respect of locating human resources at the centre of government.
An example of where such an initiative has proven successful is that of the Western Cape government’s Human Resources division, which now forms one of three components of the Corporate Services Centre, which ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Premier. This move was entirely funded through shifts from other departments, hence the WC government did not spend new money on HR staff. In fact, in the last financial year, the Western Cape government saved R18 million as a result of the shared services approach. This year, they are due to save twice that amount, whilst in the following financial year, R39 million will be saved. In the last financial year of this government’s term of office, they will save a further R43 million. In other words, a total of R135 million will have been saved over this four year period – every cent of which will be used for frontline services.
Hon. Speaker, besides for the savings and efficiencies that result from shared services, there is strategic value in locating human resources at the centre of government. Professionalising the management of human resources is key to achieving the objectives of the provincial strategy. The best-run governments in the world understand the value of appointing the right people in the right places. They invest in the training of their staff and take performance management seriously. And they put effort into attracting the best and brightest talent. Why don’t we do the same?
Hon. Speaker, if we want to be as good as the best, then we need to follow best practice.
3. Cutting out unnecessary inefficiencies
This, Hon. Speaker, brings me to the matter of cutting out unnecessary inefficiencies. In this regard, the DA proposes reviewing the Ministerial Handbook. The current Ministerial Handbook facilitates and legalises the abuse of power by way of permitting excessive spending by provincial MEC’s on lengthy five-star hotel stays, purchasing expensive vehicles and throwing lavish parties.
Once again, the Western Cape government is leading the way by binding MEC’s to a “no-frills” ministerial handbook, which prescribes tighter rules and regulations. A practical example of a revision in the handbook is the changing of the clause that allowed for the total purchase price of a vehicle chosen by a member not to exceed 70 % of the member’s inclusive annual remuneration package, to rather not exceed 40% of the member’s inclusive annual remuneration package. This is a small change but has the effect of saving government thousands of rands.
In terms of saving government money, tackling corruption must also be one of the key priorities of the Office of the Premier. We have seen how corruption has spread in our own government departments. And we know that corruption destroys the capacity of government to deliver. Projects are conceived not because they improve service delivery but rather because they provide an opportunity for officials and politicians to make money.
This said, Hon. Speaker, one of the key drivers of corruption is the absence of restrictions on state employees doing business with the state. State employees with a financial interest in companies that tender for goods and services have a clear conflict of interest, yet this has never been regulated.
The DA thus proposes changing this by bringing in regulatory legislation, which will be directly based on the Business Interests of Employees Bill, as was already passed into law in the Western Cape.
Such legislation will ensure that:
- Provincial government employees and their families will be prohibited from directly or indirectly holding more than 5% of shares, stock, membership or other interests in an entity that does business with the provincial government, unless approval is given by the relevant Minister in accordance with certain criteria set out in the Bill.
- Before the provincial government enters into any contract with an entity for the sale, lease or supply of goods and services, the entity must provide and affidavit disclosing whether or not it is owned or part-owned by employees of the Northern Cape government.
- All provincial government employees will be required to disclose their business interests at prescribed intervals, in the same way that members of Cabinet already do.
Should the bill be signed into law in the Northern Cape, a database of all employees’ business interests will have to be compiled and maintained. Furthermore, all provincial government employees will be given three months to disclose. If employees fail to disclose their business interests, disciplinary action will be initiated against them. The DA is of the firm view that such legislation will go a long way towards rooting out tender fraud in the public service.
These, Hon. Speaker, are some of the DA’s proposals to further oil and fine tune the machinery of the Office of the Premier during the 2012/2013 financial year.
If the Office of the Premier can get the machinery of government working, and if it can get the right people in the right places, and be at the cutting edge of technology that serves the people, then and only then will our provincial government be in a position to really make an impact in the lives of our citizens.
This said, we wish the Office of the Premier well in their endeavours to clean up the provincial administration and to make it more cost effective. The Office of the Premier is the lead department and everyone is looking to them for solutions. We challenge this high office not to let the people down!