The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has in the first six months of the current financial year collected only 10 percent, or R766 000 of its projected revenue of R7, 2 million.
Madam Deputy Speaker, in his adjustments estimates speech last week, the MEC for Finance alluded to the fact that – and I quote – “… it is a clarion call to the administration to emphatically increase its effectiveness and efficiency, to creatively do more with less.”
So when one sees entities that are not collecting revenue due to them, and departments that are creating moratoriums that are allowing public assets not to be utilised to their fullest potential and just simply going to waste, it makes one wonder whether the people that taxpayers rely on to keep their best interests at heart, really do have their best interests at heart.
Paying for liquor licences, casino taxes and motor vehicle licences are standard income streams for any government administration. The American statesman Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote ‘In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes’ rings true.
Yet the Eastern Cape Liquor Board continues with its dismal record of performance. One of the finding by the Committee was revenue collected has decline, yet the number of licences issued had increased. More licenses issued, yet less income collected. Come on, it does not take a genius to see that there is something wrong here.
This smacks of maladministration, in the ongoing saga of the Liquor Board. The situation is so bad that another finding of the committee was that the Board in actual fact runs the risk of high legal costs, given the way it operates.
Two months ago I was contacted by a gentleman that pleaded for me to help him.
He had spent his whole pension and bought a pub and grub type restaurant. He applied for a liquor license, followed all the regulations. And waited… That was two years ago.
By the time he called me, his business was in dire straits. He was two months behind in rent and was on the verge of closing down his business that employed 11 people, as there is very minimal to no support for a pub or restaurant that does not serve alcohol.
One letter and two phone calls later by myself, and two weeks later, the gentleman had his license in his hand.
Why does it almost always take some sort of intervention to get some departments to do their work? Do they not realise that their incompetence or laziness is messing with people’s livelihood?
While the committee has recommended that the Board must submit to the Committee an explanation of why the revenue generated has declined yet, according to them, more licences have been issued within thirty days. Madam Deputy Speaker, the DA says get rid of this useless board and outsource the function of this parastatal to someone who can take responsibility for firstly, generating much needed income for the province, and secondly, manage the issuing of liquor licences in this province in a responsible manner.
We found ourselves in the middle of the annual 16 days of activism against violence against women and children campaign. It is common knowledge that domestic violence is a direct result of alcohol abuse.
In our townships taverns and shebeens can be found around every corner. Is this responsible governance? We are told of the large backlog of applications of liquor licences, and that they are working on it. Yet we do not see any increase in output. We are not saying that liquor licences should not be issued, all that is asked is that the Board does its job and issues these licences in a responsible manner, to responsible people, in reputable establishments.
Problems continue to exist in our other parastatals as well. The Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board is without a Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Financial Officer. The revenue from casino taxes and horse racing may be seen as money for jam, but one cannot operate a successful ship without a captain.
Furthermore, it is indeed sad that poor road infrastructure has been put forward as a reason for poor occupancy rates in the Parks in the care of the Eastern Cape Parks Board. Furthermore it is shocking that the Department has delayed transfers to the Parks Board, which will result in it not meeting its targets.
The Eastern Cape has been struggling for years to find its niche in the tourism market. We now find that while the Parks Board is again complaining of a lack of capacity and not paying its creditors on time. One the other hand, the Eastern Cape Tourism Board has been operating without an approved strategic plan. We have some of the best tourism attractions in the country, yet one again we are being failed by the ruling party administration.
The governing party is increasingly propagating a shift towards a more state-centric interventionist model in which the government has a strong controlling hand in many, if not most, areas of our economy. The immediate effect of such a move is to raise our international risk profile and dramatically increase the costs that we need to pay for the capital of extremely risk adverse investors. The long term effects of a state led model can be seen in the failed economies of Africa and Eastern Europe in which cronyism, corruption and inefficiency have been comprehensive in their failure to uplift their populations.
Already, the failures of Eskom, SAA and other public enterprises are suppressing service delivery.
Even when poorly performing CEOs aren’t fired, their management seems to be rewarded: what we are seeing is the firm hand of mediocrity taking hold of the public service. Excellence is no longer recognised and poor performance is not only tolerated but, often, rewarded. It amounts to disdain for the public and its interests and the money it invests, through the taxes it pays, in sound management and best practice. With this comes a lack of accountability and the lowering of standards.
We cannot accept poor performance like that of the Liquor Board.
The Democratic Alliance supports the report.
I thank you.