The Democratic Alliance caucus in the Provincial Legislature have reviewed their respective departments and given them each a score out of 10. The department’s previous score is included in brackets, for reference.
These scores are based on the overall performance of each department, which have been monitored and held to account by the various MPLs, through the various parliamentary processes including portfolio committees, oversights, written and oral questions.
Since the beginning of the 6th sitting of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, a total of 702 written questions were submitted, of which 663 were asked by DA members. There has been a trend of late where the departments, through the MEC’s, avoid replying; or the replies are not submitted within the prescribed time limits; or are of such poor quality that the information cannot be used.
The worst offenders of this have been the departments of Education and Safety and Liaison. The DA has taken this matter up with the Speaker of the Legislature, and is looking forward to improved responses in 2020
OFFICE OF THE PREMIER & SPECIAL PROGRAMMES
The new premier, Oscar Mabuyane, has been saying the right things and at this stage we will give him the benefit of the doubt.
We need to acknowledge the premier’s responsiveness on various issues and his open-door policy. He must also be commended for the high level of stakeholder engagement.
There are a few areas of concern, most notably the extremely high public servant wage bill in the province and we expect some bold pronouncements relating to the province’s Cost of Employment (COE) in the next budget.
There also needs to be greater clarity regarding the future of the broadband rollout from the Premier’s office.
The department of Health is in a precarious financial position, as a result of contingent liability in excess of R29 billion, as compared to their adjusted total annual budget of R25,8 billion. In the Health Half Year report, the department acknowledged that they require an additional R2,296 billion to restore their baseline budget just to stay afloat until the end of this financial year.
Historically, accruals have not been decisively dealt with by the department and could reach the tipping point of R3 Billion by the end of this financial year. Intervention is crucial in order to settle accruals, which will otherwise spiral out of control.
Funded staff vacancies must be filled, data and patient records must be professionally managed, the EMS service must be expanded and better managed, and infrastructure development must be totally overhauled, if we are to see any improvement in performance.
All these steps require stable finances. When other departments fail, they are placed under administration and life goes on. When the department of Health fails, people will die.
The issue of delayed payments to NPO’s over the past few years has still not been rectified. In the previous financial years, the department has once again failed in this regard by not paying NPO’s their owed subsidies for months on end. This directly negatively impacts the recipients of these vital services which are the poor, vulnerable and destitute. Outcries for the stabilization and rectifying of the NPO payment process and system has fallen on deaf ears.
Most of the service and district Social Development offices lack crucial tools of trade which hampers the delivery of services to the poor, vulnerable and destitute.
There is been little to no absorption of social work graduates although there is a myriad of vacancies within the department.
Although the department is successful in spending close to 100% of its budget year on year, they are failing to reach the targets that were set within their budgets. 15% of invoices are still not being paid within 30 days, the department is still struggling to appoint skilled and professional core staff, the department is still operating without an approved organogram and has done so for years.
The Department also incurred R131 million irregular expenditure and R486 million of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, which is not being reported on or investigated. In terms of public works infrastructure, less than 50% of the department’s budgeted own revenue was collected, they underperformed on five infrastructure projects and only 36 of its 279 properties are in a good condition.
The department remains plagued by reoccurring findings, ineffective oversight mechanisms, poor planning, poor leadership and a lack of a conducive environment to drive innovation which is cutting the throat of this department and has a direct and negative effect on service delivery.
At the beginning of the 2018/2019 financial year, none of the auditor general findings from the previous financial year were addressed. This resulted in repeat findings, an absence of full and proper records and a sixth consecutive qualified audit opinion. In May this year, the department had to call in consultants, at exorbitant costs, just to ensure that it could prepare its financial statements and report.
The reliance on consultants and the costs involve has persisted in the current financial year with the administrative programme already overspending by over R69m on the use of consultants and professional services.
Special schools have had to go with insufficient qualified therapists and psychologists due to a failure to recruit effectively with only 56 specialist posts filled out of an already low target of 85.
The infrastructure programme is the department’s biggest failure. It is poorly planned, resulting in unpaid contractors who have walked off sites and incomplete and unfunded planned projects. There is also no budget set aside for maintenance of old and dilapidated schools.
The department’s efforts to eradicate the 1158 pit sanitation toilets have crashed and burned. Only 44 of the 169 targeted schools were rid of pit toilets in 2018/2019 and the 262 targeted for this financial year threatening to follow the same outcome as halfway through the financial year, none have commenced construction. At this rate it will take over 26 years to rid our schools of this scourge.
COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS
While the DA acknowledges that there has been a general decline across the province, the improved rating is based on the MECs decisiveness in intervening in municipalities like Nelson Mandela Bay and his responsiveness to correspondence.
However, it must be noted that service delivery in the Eastern Cape is collapsing under the pressure of crippling debt, maladministration and poor financial management as reflected in terms of the dismal audit outcomes for 2018/19.
According to the Auditor General, 76% of municipalities in the EC shows concerning financial health indicators and requires urgent intervention, only 5% of municipalities managed to obtain clean audits.
The MEC must continue to be decisive and act against these defaulting municipalities and ensure that they are brought back in line.
RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND AGRARIAN REFORM
This department scores a dismal 2 because of their inability to put a comprehensive plan in place to deal with the consequences of the prolonged drought in the province. Just insuring that the province was declared a disaster area nearly proved to be a disaster for this department as it took them months to gazette the drought declaration.
The department also underspent their budget in the 2018/19 financial year with R80.5 Million of which nearly R40 million was under the Farmer Support and Development Program.
Unfortunately, the recent appointed of Ms Siphokazi “Abalone” Ndudane as HOD earlier in December further undermines the department’s credibility as it recently came to light that she was fired from her previous employer due to alleged theft of R7,0 million in abalone.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM
The department’s performance in the first six months of the current financial has been worse than the previous year with only 60% of targets achieved.
Whilst the Eastern Cape economy is in the doldrums and the province experiences a jobs crisis, the continued under expenditure of the department and its entities, and the inability to get basic programmes off the ground, is shameful.
The Local and Regional Economic Development (LRED) budgets are again underspent this year after having been underspent in the previous two financial years.
The ECDC have spent less than half of what they should have in the first six months of this financial year as the Premier’s much vaunted economic stimulus fund has been an absolute disaster and the Isiqalo Youth Fund meant to assist young people with starting businesses has been unable to assist a single youth business.
There has also been a notable drop in the CDC’s job creation and the value of pledged investments is only at 27% of its target.
As tourism in the province continues to suffer, the EC Parks & Tourism Agency has underspent 42% of its budget
The failure to implement 24-hour law enforcement in the province, low morale and the cap on overtime as well as non-payment of overtime, The non-appointment of additional law enforcement officers, and the non-payment of all outstanding notch increases are all contributors to the low score of the department.
The MEC needs to urgently engage with labour and proper budgeting needs to take place for piloting a 24-hour law enforcement service.
The department needs to hand over Scholar transport back to Education, where it belongs. Too many learners are still left with no transport while the department spends more than it should, with no quality control checks in place.
Of great concern is the purchase of 62 plant items costing R252 million, with no operators to operate the machinery. This is a blatant waste of tax-payers money.
The Department of Human Settlements will never be able to meet its targets if it continues to do the same things hoping for different outcomes. For the past four years the department has been unable to fulfil its mandate of delivering houses, eradicating informal settlements, addressing illegal occupation of RDP houses, issuing title deeds and upgrading houses of poor quality
The department only spent 75,4 % of the budget allocated to the Expanded Public Works Programme in the 2018/2019 financial year, despite the massive jobs’ crisis in the province.
It is also extremely concerning that there is STILL no consequence management system in place to deal with underperforming contractors, that would see them blacklisted and prevented from applying for future projects.
there is also still no effective beneficiary management system which leads to houses being occupied by illegal beneficiaries
This year Provincial Treasury obtained a clean audit, which is welcomed.
Unfortunately, all provincial departments are still grappling with massive irregular expenditure which treasury seems unable to arrest. Many of the provincial departments have also stagnated in their audit opinions and have made little to no progress in the 2018/19 financial year with same.
This year 14 municipalities in the Eastern Cape also tabled unfunded budgets and Treasury Officials have been unable to provide the necessary support to these municipalities in order to prevent same.
Treasury needs to be given more teeth in order to deal decisively with some of the historic financial problems in the province.
SPORTS, RECREATION, ARTS AND CULTURE
The department continues to underspend its budget and is still incurring irregular expenditure to the tune of over R33 million, despite having one of the smaller departmental budgets in the province.
There has been no improvement on previous audit outcomes.
The department continues to fail in delivering library materials. There are also delays in the transfer of library funds to municipalities, which puts a strain on the already struggling municipalities.
The department has also incurred over expenditure on capital projects of up to 200%, while the state of museums and other infrastructure of cultural importance is left in a dismal state.
It is clear that there is no consequence management in place within this department.
SAFETY AND LIAISON
The department of Safety and Liaison has not had a permanent Head of department for the past three years. This seriously hampers its ability to conduct oversight and hold the South African Police Service in the Eastern Cape to account.
Crime stats have shown that incidents of violent crime have risen with an average of ten people murdered every day.
The department has received a clean audit for several years, so from a technical point of view it is meeting its compliance objectives. However, it needs a leader that can hold SAPS fully accountable and improve the climate for Safety and Security in the Province.