Speech notes: Annual report 2014/15, Office of the Premier

Madam Speaker, Hon Premier, Executive Members, Members of the Provincial Legislature, Staff of the Office of the Premier, dignitaries and visitors.  It is always an honour to represent my political party, the Democratic Alliance in debates in this august house.

Honourable Speaker, the Office of the Premier will not be judged by how many clean audits it has obtained in this fifth term of the provincial legislature, but by the differences it has made to the lives of ordinary people in the province.

Honourable Speaker, the population of the Eastern Cape, which is one of the poorest provinces in the country, is getting lesser and lesser year on year, due to the people of this province migrating to other provinces such as Gauteng and Western Cape, in search of better opportunities for themselves, and their families. The migration of our people to other provinces has had a negative impact on the amount of money that the province receives from the national fiscus. This is hugely detrimental for our province and ways should be found to create opportunities in order to prevent the outflow of our people to other provinces.

Hon. Speaker, the Office of the premier developed delivery agreements which were signed by the members of the Executive Council. The purpose of the agreements is to improve service delivery across the provincial administration.

Hon Speaker, the Democratic Alliance wants to ascertain from the Honourable Premier whether these agreements have contributed to improved service delivery in the province – if so, why then are we confronted with regular protest action across the province? Are these protests against services not delivered by government departments, or does these protestors merely wants to attract attention or do they just want to bath in the glorious South African weather? What then, Honourable Speaker, is the purpose of performance agreements signed, when service delivery outcomes does not honour the spirit in which those agreements were signed. The Democratic Alliance would want to know whether any assurances will be given to this house, that there will be consequences for executive authorities, should there be palpable underperformances within their departments.

Hon. Speaker, a Technical Support unit was established by the Office of the Premier with a budget of R10 million, as pronounced in the Premier’s Policy and Budget Speech last year. This unit’s main function is to give support to the Departments of Education and Health. The D.A would like to know why the Office of the premier continues to provide support to these departments when these departments have top management employed, to effectively manage their departments. The Office of the Premier must investigate the reasons for non-performances as well as the perennial challenges in these two key departments, that have been collectively allocated R45,424,682 billion, which comprises 73.4% of the R61,869,661 billion provincial revised budget for 2014/2015. Honourable Speaker, if these challenges are not identified and addressed accordingly, than these departments will continue to unashamedly rely on exterior assistance, with the incumbents not effectively been utilised.

Honourable Speaker, the Office of the Premier has unnecessary delayed in resolving the outstanding PILIR cases – it is the incapacity leave and ill health retirement cases. By the end of March 2015, a total of only 370 cases (9%) from a total of 4 069 cases, in the province, across all provincial departments, had been resolved. Why then, is the Office of the Premier not speeding up the process of addressing these cases? Are they waiting to be engaged in litigation to have these outstanding Pilir cases resolved? Or did the departments not set a budget aside to pay out leave gratuities, if these cases are decided in favour of the applicants, or is it just plain incapacity or the absence of work ethic to have these burning issues settled permanently.

Hon. Speaker, the Department of Education had no permanent HOD since 2 July last year when Mr Ngonzo was suspended. Furthermore, at the Office of the Premier, the contract of its permanent Director General expired on 31 December 2014. From January 2015 to 17 may 2015 that office had three acting Head of Departments before the appointment of the current Director General on 18 May 2015. We were informed by the office of the auditor general in the portfolio committee on the 3 November 2015 that the department, namely the Office of the Premier, has regressed from an unqualified audit with no findings to an unqualified audit with two matters of emphasis. It is clear that the absence of leadership, within four months, has cost the Office of the Premier to perform below accepted financial norms, and similarly, how much damage has now been caused by the absence of leadership in the Department of Education from July 2014 up to this date? Hon. Speaker, the Office of the Premier must oversee the process to ensure that the Department of Education has a permanent HOD, that there is stability in the department as well as to ensure that no two HODs are paid for one post because Mr Ngonzo has been on suspension with full pay.

Honourable Speaker, whilst I’m on the topic of education, let me inform the Honourable Premier that a number of schools within our disadvantaged areas have not been accorded No fee school status, even though they qualify as per the set criteria. These anomalies are unacceptable and the High office of the Premier should have this investigated. No fee schools are life lines for poor communities and the government should support all poor communities, and not be selective. Westville Secondary School situated in the Northern areas had their application rejected on a few occasions while neighbouring schools have been accorded new quintile status. Please let us be fair and consistent and give to schools that which are due to them.

Hon. Speaker, nine departments from a total of 13 departments in the province did not implement the Culture Change intervention programme. This is as a result of lack of, or, limited leadership support in departments. The Office of the premier is one of the departments that also did not implement this programme. It is expected of the Office of the Premier, which oversees the functionality and implementation of policies in all provincial departments, to set the tone and be an example as to how changes should be affected and managed – so why is the Office of the Premier not exemplary in its leadership in provincial departments?

Honourable Speaker, three departments (Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism & Department of Education) has performed below the minimum standard in the implementation of fraud prevention plans in order to counteract fraud and corruption. This underperformance can be ascribed to a lack of capacity to drive the programme. The lack of capacity to implement fraud and corruption prevention plans is symptomatic of a government that is not serious about fighting crime and corruption, although numerous pronouncements have been made about the fight against corruption, and still corruption prevails.  What is the Office of the Premier going to do to ensure that this challenge is addressed speedily? That is the million dollar question. The Democratic Alliance would also like to hear from the Honourable Premier as to when and how the investigative capacity will be increased, as per his pronouncements in this august House on 27 June 2014. These pronouncements were made, to put a plan in place that will ensure timeous conclusions of investigations into fraud and corruption cases. If investigative capacity has increased since June 2014 as per the pronouncements, why then was there, at 31 March 2015, a backlog of 315 cases on fraud and corruption, whilst only 42 cases for the 2014/2015 financial year were investigated – just asking.

Hon. Speaker, the Premier said on this day 27 June 2015, let me quote from page 21 of SOPA, “In line with our commitment to clean governance, we will introduce radical new measures to combat fraud and corruption in government institutions. These will include ensuring that all public office bearers and government officials facing serious fraud and corruption charges are relieved of their duties until finalisation of the investigation;”

Hon. Speaker, in June this year the former mayor of Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality and the deputy mayor were both redeployed to National Council of Provinces and the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature respectively after they were implicated in the Mandela Funeral scandal. Hon. Speaker, these individuals are still public office bearers who are still facing serious fraud and corruption cases. They were not relieved of their duties as per the pronouncements of the Honourable Premier, but instead were rewarded with redeployment. This clearly demonstrates that the provincial government is not serious about fighting crime and corruption in the province.

Honourable Speaker, the phenomenon of no consequence management which is also detectable in the Office of the Premier and permeates throughout the other departments, will ultimately destroy this Provincial Government. The Office of the Premier does not hold the Head of Departments accountable for under or non-performance within their departments. It seems that letters of non-compliance is the accepted norm and has proved to be ineffective. There must be a mechanism that can be developed by the provincial government to enforce compliance by provincial departments. This mechanism, still to be developed, must ensure that there are repercussions for the departments that do not comply.

Hon. Speaker, the Democratic Alliance appeals to the Office of the Premier to lead by example in ensuring that the lives of the people of this province are improved. We can’t expect to get different results when we keep on doing things the same way. We need to do things differently so that the lives of the people can be improved.

The Democratic Alliance supports the report.

Edmund van Vuuren, DA spokesperson for Office of the Premier