Speech notes by P.E. van Vuuren on the Budget Vote of the Office of the Premier on Tuesday 15 May 2018

Honourable Speaker, Hon Premier, the executive, Honourable Members, officials of the Office of the Premier, dignitaries and visitors, I heartily greet you this morning.

Honourable Speaker, the Office of the Premier has been allocated an amount of R973,396 million for the financial year 2018/19 which is an increase of 39,8% on the previous years’ allocation.

This 39,8% increase is due to increases in Broadband projects, Small Town Revitalisation and compensation of employees, increases to cater for salary adjustments and the implementation of the Annual Recruitment Plan, including the implementation of the recently approved organisational structure.

Honourable Speaker, this is an incremental budget. The compensation of employees makes up 30% of the entire vote namely, R293,919 million.

Honourable Speaker, this budget of the Office of the Premier shows increases in the outer years whilst on a regular basis the department has been underspending, even despite having surrendered funds for the province’s investment projects as well as having a significant amount of accruals in the previous year, the department still underspent.

This is a cause for concern as the under-expenditure is perpetual. As the leading government department, the Office of the Premier should set high fiscal values in order for the other departments to follow their lead.

Hon Speaker, the under-expenditure has regularly been ascribed to vacancy rates and the non-signing of service level agreements.

Hon Speaker, the Office of the Premier must spell out in no uncertain terms as to the measures this department will take to ensure its budget is spent.

Honourable Speaker, as the lead Department in the province, this department needs to be transformed over the medium term to be a high performance organisation by creating an enabling environment for opportunities, building capacity and empowering employees to deliver on the socio-economic transformation which hopefully will have an impact on the high unemployment in the province and subsequently improve the quality of life of the majority in the Eastern Cape.

Honourable Speaker, there’s currently no shared vision within this Province. The different Provincial Departments execute the supposedly shared vision incongruently. As a result of a failed and disastrous evaluation and monitoring system by the Office of the Premier, the citizens of this province are not beneficiaries of a shared vision, supposedly to enhance their way of living.

Hon Speaker, as the Democratic Alliance we are excited about the Broadband projects and the Small Town Revitalisation. Although 160 sites for broadband to expedite connectivity has been identified, the base is too low considering that only 7% of the Eastern Cape can be considered as being connected.

Hon Speaker, the Democratic Alliance appeals to the Department to fast-track connectivity to corporate sites, schools etc., in order to drive cost efficiency, improved service delivery and to serve as a catalyst for economic and social development.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is deeply concerned with the establishment of the War rooms through the Masipathisane programme. We are aware that the governing party has initiated that these war rooms will improve Intergovernmental Relations Oversight role.

Hon Speaker, it still has to be proved that the anticipated outcomes through the creation of war rooms have been achieved at the expense of existing ward councillor offices within our Province.

Hon Speaker, we have the situation in the province where was rooms have been established, but not functional, and huge amounts of monies being spent, without a report, being produced regarding the work done and successes achieved.

In Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality there are functional ward committees across all 60 wards and execute their responsibilities as per the Systems Act. Why then, a dual representation where there are functional ward committees, who are remunerated for their services.

Why does the government of the day undermine our own established structures – Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has indicated that they have no budget for this kind of implementation and it can also be conceived as double parking – two people doing the same work and remunerated separately.

Hon Speaker, our assets are being vandalised, stolen and demolished. I am referring to schools that have been closed by the Department of Education through the process of Rationalization and Realignment and also by parents that are fed up by the low quality of education afforded to our children by certain schools.

Hon Speaker, the Office of the premier has indicated that they are aware of the closed school buildings that have been handed over to the Department of Road and Public Works by the Department of Education, but DRPW has indicated that such action has not taken place.

Hon Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is appealing to this government to consider the possibility of these schools to be transferred to the municipalities that have the financial capabilities, to be managed by them, rather than to allow these buildings to be vandalised and stolen.

There are closed schools in good structural condition across the Province, within municipalities that can be utilized by the communities, under supervision. It will be a starting point to identify where these closed schools are and which municipalities are interested in managing these buildings as, in most cases, they are on municipal grounds.

Let us preserve our assets and avail those assets to those that are capable of restoring and managing them. Buildings are always in demand for usage and I want to urge the appropriate departments to execute their responsibilities with the necessary urgency in order to protect our assets.

Hon Speaker, the rollout of Thusong centres cannot be overemphasised enough. We are aware that rural areas are being prioritized but with the human growth and the increase in Human Settlements within urban areas, the need for Thusong centres in Metropolitans also becomes a necessity.