Date: 24 August 2010
SPEECH NOTES – BOBBY STEVENSON, MPL, LEGISLATURE LEADER, SPOKESPERSON ON FINANCE SPEAKING ON THE SCOPA REPORT FOR THE 2007/8 FINANCIAL YEAR
This report is a tragic indictment on the lack of administrative and political accountability that exists in this Province. Year in and year out the same issues continue to haunt departments and nothing really changes insofar as the big Departments such as Education and Health are concerned.
On page 173 of the tabled report under findings 9 I quote :
“Departments continue to be qualified on the same matters as in previous periods, especially the Departments of Health and Education.”
There is an expression – the more things change the more they stay the same. In the case of health and education nothing changes and everything stays the same, if not getting worse.
This is the 14th year that health has received a bad audit report. The education department has received a bad report since its inception. In the 2004/5 year both Health and Education received a disclaimer. In the 2005/6 year both Health and Education received a disclaimer. In the 2006/7 year both Health and Education received an adverse opinion. IN the 2007/8 year both Health and Education received an adverse opinion. In the 2008/9 year they both received an adverse opinion. For the 2009/10 year both have received a disclaimer. This is a regression.
The question that this house needs to ask is Why, after all the reports and oversight work done by committees, does nothing change?
We cannot go on year after year sitting in meetings making findings and recommendations and nothing changes. This points to a failure of the oversights methods conducted by this house. It cannot be business as usual when it is service delivery unusual.
The consequences of these bad audit reports are all clear for one to see. There is a failing health system where none of the sections are functioning properly and a ailing education system that is failing the learners of this Province.
How many more babies must die? How many more grade 12’s must fail before the situation is turned around.
Action needs to be taken on an administrative and political level. There needs to be the political will on behalf of the ruling party to take the kind of decisive action that will turn the situation around.
Some people want to pass the buck and want to call for National intervention. We have had national intervention from time to time over the years and they don’t make any long term difference. We all remember the IMT process (Inter ministerial task team). .
The Public Finance Management Act empowers treasury to take decisive action.
Let me quote from Section 18 of the Public Finance Management Act which deal with the functions and powers of provincial treasury :
“Must intervene by taking appropriate steps which may include the withholding of funds to address a serious or persistent material breach of this act by a provincial department or provincial entity.”
“May do anything further which is necessary to fulfill its responsibilities effectively.”
I want to challenge the MEC for Finance to tell us what is going to be different this year? What decisive action are you going to take that is finally going to turn these departments around because they seem incapable of doing it themselves?
SUGGESTED ACTION STEPS
1. The MEC for every department should sign a performance agreement with the Premier. This is something the President has stated that he has done with the National Cabinet.
If an MEC cannot keep to his agreements, he must go. This is what political accountability is about. Has the ruling party become so riddled with faction management that it has become paralyzed and cannot act against the responsible politicians and administrators?
If a department continues to perform dismally, the political head must be fired. This is how democracy works. If he survives then so do all the rotten apples in failing departments. This results in nothing changing and the people continue to suffer.
2. We would also like to suggest that a skills audit be conducted of senior management in the two big departments of health and education to determine whether or not people are fit for purpose. If not, they must be put on terms and dealt with.
3. We would also like to suggest that SCOPA reports be debated timeously. We are now dealing with the 2007/8 financial year when we are half way through the 2010/11 financial year.
We believe that current reports of the auditor general should be debated before the new budget is passed in the new year.
This means the 2009/10 auditor general’s report should be finalised by this house before the 2011/12 budget is passed. This would make SCOPA reports much more meaningful.
Let me quote what an american academic Leonard White had to say in relation to the consequences of political manipulation of civil service appointments :
‘[It is] reflected in poorly-built highways, which crumble under modern traffic conditions,; in shoddy goods and worse than amateur service in state institutions, which should operate solely on the basis of public trustee for unfortunate members of society; in high infant mortality rates and unnecessary suffering among those most dependent on the public service; in lax and fumbling enforcement of the law and in the sacrifices of the interests of the state or municipality. It is as unnecessary and it is impossible to translate these losses into dollars and cents; but it is as necessary now as ever before to insist that those loses are real and preventable.”
This academic made this statement not in 2004 or 1974 but in 1924. The more we fail to learn from the lessons of history, the more history continues to repeat itself in this Province. The time has come for members of this house to take a firm stand and to stop the rot that is sinking two of our big departments in the Province.