Speech Notes: Vote 9 – DEDEAT Annual & Half Year Financial Oversight Reports

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Madam Speaker, Hon Premier, Members of the Legislature, officials and guests, I greet you all.

Madam Speaker the Department known as DEDEAT constitutes three enormous and very important competencies which, in a perfect world, would be standalone departments as they play such a vital role in the economic development of communities, provinces and countries. These are, of course, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

One understands that departments that take care of humans’ primary needs, such as health and education, must take precedence in terms of budget and staff size.

But Madam Speaker, when I look at the combined budget for all three programmes in this Department, I have a better understanding of why the Eastern Cape government is dysfunctional.

The administrative programme’s primary objectives are strategic leadership and management, and secondly, performance oversight. And yet, they disclosed irregular expenditure of a quarter of a billion rand for transfer payments made in respect of the Provincial Economic Stimulus Fund. So while this was happening, where was the strategic leadership? Where was the management? Where on earth was the performance oversight?

Furthermore, while several posts were filled during the period under scrutiny, the vacancy rate remains a stubbornly high 25,1%. Due diligence and performance oversight would have been applied in a capable state, these posts would have been filled, and the programme would be capacitated.

Another grave concern is the number of times the word “non- compliance” appears in this programme’s repeat findings. Internal controls are non -compliant – which means there aren’t any. One-third of the departmental staff are non-compliant with Performance Management and Development Systems (PMDS), which means they didn’t bother to complete their assessments.

And then, of course, my favourite … non-compliance with Supply Chain Management legislation, in this case, the inability to implement monitoring mechanisms – simply put, I promise not to peep while you steal, if you promise not to peep while I steal. That way, we can’t be held to account because we never saw anything. In a capable state, SCM is critical in ensuring clean governance.

The second programme’s main objective, namely Economic Development, is to sustain economic development through partnerships. One would expect that, at the finish line of this ambitious and very necessary goal, one would see many flourishing, standalone, sustainable businesses, big and small. Businesses that not only become employers themselves, but contribute their fair share of taxes to the ever-shrinking national fiscus.

Sadly, this programme has never really left the starting blocks. Instead we are bombarded with repeat findings that include underspending due to delayed payments and problems with service providers who can’t get their act together and should have been fired in the last term.

A word on partnerships here, Madam Speaker. In a capable state, a partnership is a two-way relationship, where both parties contribute to a sustainable economic relationship.

Handouts are neither economically sound nor are they sustainable. There are far more innovative tools for economic development.

Programme Three administers environmental policies that are cascaded from the national government in line with their policies. Sadly, cadre deployment at a national level has highlighted the total paucity of understanding of how vital the role of the environment is in developing sustainable economies.

For example, there is a clear link between estuarine health and food web value chains. Estuaries are vital habitats and nurseries for commercially important fish species, so when they are degraded, the oceans economy suffers extensive losses. South Africa’s most recent biodiversity assessment of 2018 indicates that more than 60% of our estuarine areas are heavily or critically modified.

We have legislation to safeguard these national treasures, yet most coastal municipalities have still failed to comply with the submission of Estuarine Management Plans. Needless to say, in the DA-led Western Cape, the majority of the 56 estuaries had estuarine management plans in place by the end of 2018.

Our natural forests suffer the same fate and yet they too hold so much economic and tourism value.
Sadly, in our province, the regulation of environmental management has been brought to its knees because the Department has failed to fill vacant posts which are essential to conserve our environment and thus ensure sustainable future fisheries, nature tourism and environmental health.

Because the Department delayed implementing its Annual Recruitment Plan, compliance and enforcement, as well as biodiversity conservation and management, limp along with a 40% vacancy rate.

This is a disgrace. Our Compliance and enforcement officers in this province are some of the most dedicated and hardworking people you will ever meet. They work as a skeleton crew under gruelling and dangerous conditions, championing and protecting our endangered species and are thus key in ensuring a sustainable future for nature tourism, and related jobs in the province. Surely they deserve a full complement of staff to continue this vital work.

When we look at the provincial public entities, we immediately note all that is good, and all that is bad, in two different examples.

The East London IDZ / SEZ has once again risen to the occasion and exceeded many of its targets.

Where it fails, it immediately makes the requisite changes to ensure success going forward. It is a pleasure to see competent leadership and management at work.

The other extreme, sadly, is the ever-bungling ECDC. Property portfolio losses of R33 million, a continued collapse in rental income, poor or non-existent management of assets, a vacancy rate of almost 29%, and no tangible plans to make the difficult decisions and change tactics.

In a capable state, this leaderless situation would not be tolerated. Also, R98 million was disbursed to 16 businesses to save 98 jobs. That means 98 people got R100 000 each. Who? How? Why? What happens when the handouts run out? Saving businesses in distress is not sustainable. It would be far more prudent to invest in projects that

One gets the distinct impression, Madam Speaker, that the target bar has been set way too low at the ECDC. Even a pregnant dairy cow can jump a three-foot fence. It is time they lifted their game.
Finally, Madam Speaker, a general finding states that the Department’s HR efficiency Index with regard to Recruitment and Employee Life Cycle Management is unsatisfactory due to low staff perception.

This rings a warning bell for me. It says that all is not well in the staff room and this does not augur well for the Department.

In the DA-led Western Cape and the Kouga Municipality right here in our province, Human resource management is prioritised so that all stakeholders feel valued and valuable. In this way, they give of their best and service delivery is enhanced so that the communities they serve are also able to live lives of value.

The DA accepts the report.