Legislature Leader Bobby Stevenson is offering some practical suggestions to government, which he has entitled “Agenda for Accountability”.
This follows after Premier Noxolo Kiviet failed to spell in her recent State of the Province Address how accountability of her Cabinet and civil servants is going to be rigidly enforced. “Without accountability we do not get value for money. This means that money is wasted on maladministration, corruption and general inefficiencies”, said Stevenson.
“The burning anger that people already feel at the lack of service delivery in this province will erupt into flames unless drastic action is taken. There must be consequences for non-performance.
“Service delivery in this province will never be improved unless we are all inspired by a vision of real accountability. This is one of the foundation stones upon which an open, opportunity society is based. It takes leadership, courage and political will to make this a reality. Poor accountability keeps poor people poorer.
As a party of government the DA would like to offer the following practical suggestions, which I have entitled “Agenda for Accountability”:
• MECs should sign “a contract with the community” spelling out clear deliverables to which they will be held to account.
• Compliance with the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act needs to be rigidly enforced. Last year in the region of R400 million was paid out in back-pay to employees of the Health Department. This money was neither budgeted for nor properly costed. In fact, the health officials only knew the total once the button had been pushed to pay. Will anyone be charged for this financial mismanagement?
• The tender process needs to be reformed in this province. The DA in the Western Cape is introducing The Business Interests of Employees Bill, which prohibits employees of provincial government doing business with the province except in strictly defined and transparent circumstances.
The tender process needs to be opened up to public scrutiny and conducted in public. An ombudsman needs to be appointed to investigate tender irregularities throughout the province. The central supplier database, which tracks all tenders and beneficiaries, needs not only to come into fruition but embrace all local government tenders as well.
In this way one will be able to identify the “tenderpreneurs”.
In a number of months R2 billion has been lost through fraud and corruption involving tenders in this country. Can the Premier tell us whether Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan has written to her informing her of any tenders that will be investigated by the national Treasury?
• Declarations by members of the Senior Management Service (SMS) need to be rigidly enforced. According to a public service commission report published in September last year, only 382 out of 668 (57 percent) Senior Management Service members submitted their financial disclosure forms for the 2008/9 financial year before the deadline.
According to this report, some officials at the most senior levels are repeat offenders. These include one director-general, one deputy director-general, five chief directors and 53 directors. In the Health Department 167 of the 215 SMS members did not submit their disclosure forms, while at Education 27 of the 68 SMS members did not comply with the legislation. Health and Education get 75 percent of the annual provincial budget. These two departments repeatedly get adverse opinions from the Auditor-General.
The commitment by the premier that the financial disclosure framework is to be extended to all categories of employees who are involved in the supply chain process is welcome. But have any senior management been disciplined for not complying with their financial disclosures? Fine words are simply not good enough. Action is required.
• The performance agreements of top officials in the departments need to be made available to members of the portfolio committees and these performance agreements need to be subject to oversight by the portfolio committee to ensure that they are rigidly complied with.
• Results of forensic audits that are conducted in this province need to be publicised and given to members of this House in terms of the Public Audit Act. I wish to challenge the premier as to whether she will make public the recent forensic audit into the affairs of the Nelson Mandela Metropole. Speculation is rife that there is damning evidence in that forensic report.
• Resolutions of this House need to be fully complied with and portfolio committees need to more fully scrutinise the implementation of those resolutions.
• Psychometric testing to ensure that top officials are fit for purpose must be introduced when people are employed.
• Cadre re-deployment needs to be abolished. This is the root of all evil in our governmental structures today. People obtain jobs and get contracts not based on what they know, but who they know. They then mess up.
In his January 8 statement, President Jacob Zuma noted that this was a problem and stated “we are of the firm view that municipal employees should not hold leadership positions in political parties”. The same principle should be extended to provincial government, where senior civil servants should not be allowed to hold top positions in political parties as this leads to a total conflict of interest. How can MPLs oversee their party bosses without fear or favour?
This, in a nutshell, is how the DA believes that accountability in this province can be improved. Our MPLs will drive our Agenda for Accountability with all the parliamentary weapons at our disposal. Will you, Honourable Premier, commit yourself to rise up, roll up your sleeves and lead this province into a new era of accountability as well?