SPEECH BY JOHN CUPIDO: BUDGET AND POLICY VOTE, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS

Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the names of our portfolios:  Economic Development, Environment and Tourism.  The name alone tells us exactly what we should be doing.

We need to be implementing ideas and giving support to develop the economy. We need to protect our environment, protect the fauna and flora of our beautiful Province.

We need to advertise our province, the beauty within, thus growing the tourist trade.

Kufuneka sakhe ezomnotho, sikatalele indalo yethu, sikhulise nezokhenketho empumakoloni.

(We need to build the economy, take care of our environment, and grow the tourism of the Eastern Cape)

The budget to do what I’ve just described has decreased from just over R1 billion to R839 million.

Don’t be fooled by the removal of the once-off R140 million paid last year for the Logistics Park or the Asgisa funding. After all of that, there is still a good R100 million less than last year

What does that mean?

That is R100 million that we could have spent on bolstering Trade and Industry as the economy slowly tries to climb out of the recession.

R100 million that we could have spent on upgrading our reserves and parks to make our province more attractive to visitors.

R100 million that we could have used to clean up our rivers and environment, ensuring clean drinking water for thousands of breastfeeding mothers, young children and every member of our provincial community.

R100 million that we could have used now during the Soccer World Cup to advertise our province as the economical holiday destination that it is, thus boosting return tourist trade.

The Department has three programmes:

Administration, Economic Development and Environmental Affairs Management.

In his speech on Budget Day, the MEC of Finance, who also happens to be the MEC of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, stated that in this financial year we should tighten our belts and introduce cost cutting measures across the board. So in Programme 1, any business minded person knows that the first place to look for wastage, the first place to streamline costs without affecting your departmental goals, is to look at administration. So to see an 80.68% increase in administration for the office of the MEC, 8.03% increase in financial management and a 73.75% increase in corporate services, is nothing short of alarming.

The portfolio committee itself has a finding that states: The Department is struggling to implement prudent financial management systems; as a result, it has received a qualified audit report.

Mr MEC, one should practice what they preach.

Programme 2: Economic Development

Within this programme lays my biggest concerns about the Department and its budget.

Economic Development sees a total decrease of 38.13%.

Trade and Industry Development is slashed by almost 60%.

To the man on the street, this is the sub programme where the province assists businesses and helps to create new business to boost the economy and create new jobs. One can only deduce that creating sustaining jobs is now 60% less important to the department this year.

At this stage, there is no follow up on funds given for LED (Local Economic Development) projects.

This means that we are giving away millions of rands in bits and pieces, from a few thousand rands to several million to people that “promise” to use it to create business, jobs and to help sustain communities. We are not checking up on projects that work, to see how they work and to replicate the successes. Sadly, we are not following up on money that has disappeared , chasing that up, or holding anyone accountable.

Some of the public entities within the Economic Development Programme are of major concern.

Entities like ELIDZ and Coega have done well considering the instability created by lack of Eskom power guarantees and price increases and the rand strengthening during governmental decision lags.

I will reiterate from my previous speeches and statements, that the only way to solve some of these difficulties is to turn them into true EPZ’s (Export Processing Zones), with expedited governmental applications, reduced duties, accelerated depreciation and the relaxation of certain excessive labour laws, so that labour intensive manufacturing is promoted, thus creating more sustainable jobs.

The Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board and the Eastern Cape Liquor Board. Two complete jokes within the province!

We have a Liquor Board that has a blatant disregard for Departmental expectations and regulations.

This year they submitted a “cut and paste” version of their previous budget and strategic plan. What did the committee do? We sent them back to bring us a correct one a few weeks later. That’s it!

I agree with the Honourable Matomela that it is not for the committee to discipline, but to recommend action to the MEC. But if you read the recommendation in the report, it states that the Department should assist the Liquor Board to overcome problems of corporate governance.

Where is the accountability in that?

No recommendation to the MEC to investigate and subsequently discipline.

The Liquor Board tried to lie to us.

We caught them out and allowed them to correct their “mistake”. Someone “cut and paste”, someone is accountable.

To my knowledge, I am the only one who has asked the MEC to look into this.

The Gambling and Betting Board is not any better. A CEO that is under internal investigation for fraud and conflict of interest. The MEC promised me a copy of the report on the investigation, almost two months ago. But I have still not received this report or seen a copy of it.

A chairperson that lives and works outside of the province, in Johannesburg in fact, and has, in his few years with the board, raised the board members allowance from R2000 a meeting to a whopping R12000 per meeting for himself and R8500 for the others.

So much for tightening our belts Mr MEC.

The boards are not fully to blame for their obvious incompetence. A strong mitigating factor is lack of leadership from the Department’s side. Each board has a representative from the Department, who is supposed to report wasteful expenditure and incompetent decisions to the Departments management. Sources have told me that many of the Departmental officials that sit on the various boards, have a tendency to not attend board meetings. So expect that Parliamentary Question on your desk soon, Honourable MEC.

I know that many ruling party members are as shocked as I am about these revelations. Your term motto is Together We Can Do More.

So, please, let’s work together to clean these boards, jack up the Departments and give the people the Government they deserve.