Speech notes by Edmund van Vuuren on the annual report of the Department of Education for the 2012/13 financial year, 21 November 2013

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Members of the Executive, Honourable members, officials and dignitaries – I humbly greet you today.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance acknowledges the role the Department of Roads and Public Works is playing in creating job opportunities for the thousands of unemployed through its different employment programmes as well as contributing to skills attainment to certain categories of job seekers.

Honourable Speaker the Democratic Alliance is deeply concerned with the findings of the Auditor General in that the financial statements as a whole are materially misstated due to a cumulative effect of many individually immaterial uncorrected statements. Honourable Speaker in 2011/2012 financial year the audit opinion was qualified with findings. In the 2012/2013 financial year the Department of Roads and Public Works received a disclaimer with findings. This disclaimer was primary as per reports, due to an absence of effective oversight at a leadership level, resulting in continued deterioration of the control environment.

Key positions in the Department were not filled, or the officials appointed do not have the required skills to carry out their duties adequately. As a result of the skills gap within the Department, the Department has been faced with a number of challenges such as irregular expenditure, under expenditure, non-compliance with applicable legislation and unguarded and unguided systems and controls, giving rise to errors in financial reports. The Democratic Alliance appeals to the MEC for Roads and Public Works to populate the funded posts within the Staff Establishment with officials that will be able to fill these gaps mentioned.

The Department has however also deployed a large consultancy contingent to address issues identified in the audit outcomes, but in numerous instances the consultants have been producing substandard work – the Department should have a relook at the quality of consultants hired.

Honourable Speaker, the Programme for Roads Infrastructure shows an under expenditure during the half-year financial oversight report of R227 million as reflected in a report given to the committee, which is 31% of the total budget of R1.82 billion, yet in a response to a question asked whether there were any plans to upgrade the Bulura road, which is in a poor condition, and is linking the East Coast Resorts Road to the N2 – the response I got was that the Department of Roads and Public Works is fully aware of the bad condition of the Bulura Road, but due to budget constraints they are unable to attend to this matter.

This Department also can’t repair the Blaauw Krantz pass due to budget shortfalls, yet they have only spent 28% and 31% on construction and maintenance of roads. Honourable Speaker, there is an accumulated backlog of over R13 billion for maintenance and R25 billion for upgrades and new infrastructure, with the maintenance backlog continuing to grow by approximately R0.5 billion to R1 billion per annum. It is foreseen that it will take almost 34 years to address this problem.

It is inexplicable, that in the light of such a huge backlog in road rehabilitation, that a cut in the budget of this specific programme has not vehemently been challenged. Honourable Speaker, the Roads Infrastructure programme is very important in each and every sphere of government, because if our roads can be accessible and safe, than even accidents can be minimised. It is just a pity Honourable Speaker that the implementing agent, namely Coega Development Co-operation responsible for the Roads Enterprise Development Project has unfortunately not fulfil its mandate if the state of our Roads infrastructure is anything to go by.

The Democratic is of the firm belief that if an implementing agent cannot fulfil its contractual obligations, than such implementing agents should be relieved from their commitments, and replaced by service providers that have the capacity to honour their contractual undertakings.

Honourable Speaker, the purpose of existence of the Department of Roads and Public works is to provide infrastructure in order to stimulate socio-economic growth and development in the province.

The Department has been maintaining existing government buildings without knowing exactly how many vacant sites, commercial sites, disused and derelict buildings and land belongs to the Provincial Public Works.

Honourable Speaker, besides not having an updated asset register, the Department of Public works also have a multitude of vacant properties of which some have been vandalised to such an extent that it is beyond repair.

Honourable Speaker, huge amounts are being paid to security companies to safeguard these unutilised buildings, but government buildings are regularly been vandalised or set alight. Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance wants to be informed as to why such a large number of buildings are unoccupied and why income cannot be generated from the leasing of such buildings.

This income can be used to supplement the shortfall on the maintenance budget for client Departments or on rental and Tax and Rates payments for all government buildings or use that additional income to pay insurance on buildings owned by the Department.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is reasonably satisfied with the implementation of infrastructure Delivery Programmes with regard to new work and assistance given to the Departments of Education and Health, with special reference to the eradication of mud and unsafe structures, the construction of Early Childhood Development Centres and the Construction of Learner Assessment centres.

The Democratic Alliance supports the report.