by Andrew Louw – DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
Date: 28 June 2018
Note to Editors: The following is an extract from a speech presented by Andrew Louw MPL at the annual Budget Vote Debate for the Office of the Premier at the Frances Baard District Municipality chambers in Kimberley today.
Today, as we come together to consider this budget vote, we also come to assess the work done by the Office of the Premier in terms of achieving “a prosperous province with quality of life for all” though strategic leadership and integrated planning.
The budget proposals are meant to give effect to this laudable vision; yet they do not inspire the confidence that a thriving Northern Cape will actually be established under the current leadership.
Well, the very first thing that springs to mind is the fact that this department has been operating like a headless chicken since the start of the fifth legislature in 2014.
This is because, to date, while the review of the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy for the 2014 – 2019 term is in progress, a final document has still not materialized, with just one year left to go.
Hon. Speaker, for as long as I can remember, the different versions of the PGDS have almost always been in a state of flux. In fact, they have been under review more than what they have been in implementation.
Hon. Speaker, we all know the old saying that, “if you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail” – well, so much for creating 20 000 decent jobs each and every year.
The PGDS is the vision document of the province, referred to in every annual report and state of the province address, and to which the budget of the province speaks. Without a vision document in place, however, it becomes almost impossible to chart a way forward. I believe that this is, to a large extent, responsible for the visible stagnation and deterioration in the Northern Cape.
Hon. Speaker, under the lack of leadership by Hon. Premier Sylvia Lucas, the expanded unemployment rate in the province has increased from 34,8% in quarter 4 of 2013 to 41% in quarter 1 of 2018. In quarter 2 of last year, the Northern Cape had the highest expanded unemployment rate in the country with almost half of the province’s population unemployed.
This is not a legacy to be proud of.
But what more can we expect from a provincial government, marked by a largely leaderless public administration?
In accordance with the Public Service Act, it is the prerogative of the Premier to appoint heads of departments. Since 2014, however, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism as well as Provincial Treasury, have been piloted by acting heads.
Hon. Speaker, it is most undesirable for the two departments tasked with the economic growth and financial matters of the province, to be left without permanency in senior positions for so long.
At the same time, the Premier retains an MEC, whom she herself reported to the Hawks on corruption allegations, as the political commandeer of these very same departments.
Meanwhile, in the past four years, at least four different HOD’s and four different MEC’s have taken over the reins of the provincial Health Department.
The Department of Environment and Nature Conservation is another department marred by incessant instability as a result of five HOD swops, which now places the department under the leadership of an acting HOD deployed from the Premier’s own office.
What exactly is the Hon. Premier trying to achieve here, other than chaos and disorder, which is ultimately seen in one service delivery failure after another?
• The Health Department remains on the verge of collapse. Attempts to save costs by cutting on critical pharmaceutical purchases, coupled with a dire shortage of nurses and doctors, due to drawn out, centralized appointment processes, risk lives.
Non-functioning health services, such as Kimberley Hospital’s High Care unit, and the non-existent mammography service at Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington, compromise on quality health care. While single crew ambulances, and a shortage of emergency medical vehicles, threaten the viability of this life-saving service.
• Provincial Treasury frankly admits that the state of the provincial fiscus deteriorates and they remain incapable of halting this deterioration. While the province continues to close with budgets deficits, pressures from accruals, the cost of medico-legal claims and irregular expenditure continues to threaten service delivery to all communities.
• The Economic Development Department only creates economic opportunities for politically connected individuals, leaving the majority of the province’s workforce excluded from the economy;
• The Roads and Public Works Department is a cesspit of corruption, directly threatening road maintenance and placing the safety of road users at risk, also threatening the economy.
• The Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison’s failure to decisively address fraudulent taxi licenses is threatening to culminate in taxi war in the province. Its lack of action against crime and inefficient monitoring of police services, makes Northern Cape citizens vulnerable to crime.
• The Department of Social Development is skimming money off its social relief programmes for party political purposes. At the same time, certain soup kitchens refuse to serve members of the public who are not affiliated to the ANC, literally stealing food out of the mouths of starving children.
• The Agriculture Department still can’t provide adequate extension advisory services to emerging farmers, ultimately contributing to the failure of land reform. The lack of coordination between Agriculture, COGHSTA and Roads and Public Works, further compromises the agri-economy.
• The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture is preventing learners, students and job seekers from accessing necessary services due to its collection of dysfunctional libraries.
And so the list goes on …
Hon. Speaker, the role of the Premier’s Office is to demand accountability in the provincial administration, geared towards effective service delivery and sustained economic growth. But the budget proposals do not address this.
On a municipal front, things also don’t look any better. In fact, they look worse after progressive deterioration over the years.
According to the latest municipal audit outcomes, a total of 96% of municipalities in the Northern Cape had material findings due to non-compliance with legislation. This was the one audit area that had been in a dire position for a long time and yet leadership continued to ignore the need to hold staff accountable.
The financial well-being of the province also remains a concern, with a material uncertainty regarding the financial health of 56% of the municipalities in this province.
En nou, met net ‘n jaar om te gaan, het die Agbare Premier skielik wakker geskrik! The Hon. Premier has given an instruction to her Director General to resuscitate Operation Clean Audit, which was launched in 2009, in a bid to try and get all municipalities to the point where they could get clean audits by 2014.
Like the Local Government Turnaround Strategy and all the other plans before this, a clean 2014 never materialized.
It is highly questionable as to exactly what impact this last ditch resuscitation of Operation Clean Audit will have before the Hon. Premier relinquishes her post after the 2019 election.
Hon. Speaker, given the high levels of unemployment and poverty in the province, as well as the number of service delivery failures, it is unacceptable to continue with a budget that only serves to preserve the status quo.
It is clear that the Office of the Premier remains visionless and leaderless in a jobless society.
The DA therefore does not support Budget Vote 1.
DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
082 383 6914
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387