Budget Debate – Office Of The Premier (Vote 1)
By Dr BT Buthelezi MPL, Leader Of The Official Opposition

 

KZN Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 24 March 2011

 

 

Madam Speaker

 

The 24th of March 2011 is the World TB Day and the theme for this year is "On the move against Tuberculosis - Transforming the fight towards elimination" and it inspires innovation in TB research and care. I know that many people would be surprised by my opening remarks since this budget debate is on Vote 1, but as Honourable Members would know, TB has always been one of the biggest challenges facing KwaZulu-Natal. 

 

As the Honourable Premier is the Chairperson of the Provincial AIDS Council and a medico by profession he would know that TB is the number one opportunistic infection in people living with HIV/Aids and the Official Opposition wishes to remind the rest of our province that we must join hands in fighting the twin epidemics of HIV/Aids and TB.

 

The Office of the Premier is the hub of the provincial government and its role is to ensure coordination, monitoring, evaluation and accountability of individual departments.  In our alternative budget framework which mirrors the budget before us today, we are proposing three measures to improve all of these aspects of the department’s mandate.

 

Firstly, in order to improve its overall project management capacity, we propose the establishment of a live access computer-based database that would allow the Premier, each MEC and all senior civil service managers live access to management information on every major project in the provincial government to improve coordination across departments.

 

The database would also be accessible to all municipalities in order to improve coordination of intergovernmental projects.  The database would not only hold the right people to account, but it would also allow continuous monitoring of progress and ensure coherence between business plans and performance reports. 

 

A case in point is the housing situation in the province where poor alignment between different spheres of government had resulted in the rescheduling of housing projects, under-expenditure and roll-over of funds earmarked for the delivery of houses. The Premier has reported that delays in clearing issues of land ownership and the provision of bulk infrastructure had resulted in R80 million from a conditional grant being returned to the National Treasury. 

 

Although a Special Task Team has been appointed to deal with challenges in housing projects, the Official Opposition believes that the proposed live access database would go a long way in addressing these issues. It would expedite the planning stages of the housing projects and it would also help project managers to stick to a proper schedule. Ultimately, it would deliver the desired quantity and quality of housing that the people of this province expect from this government.

 

Secondly, we have noted that government departments are either working in silos with regard to disaster management or there is duplication of interventions by various departments when disaster strikes in the province. At present, no fewer than five government departments are directly involved in the management of natural disasters in this province. They are the Office of the Premier, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Department of Social Development, the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Transport.

 

It is this costly confusion of responsibilities that has prompted us to propose that disaster management be concentrated in the Office of the Premier to prevent duplication of functions in other departments and to ensure speedy response to disasters by coordinating the provincial government’s action directly with affected municipalities.

 

Thirdly, we maintain that the Office of the Premier should embark on a thorough review of all public entities attached to various departments to assess their performance and determine whether or not they are still fulfilling their legislative or statutor ....  re still relevant to the government’s overall policy approach and whether they justify the budget allocations earmarked for them.

 

Undoubtedly, some of our public entities are not delivering on their mandate or have become havens of extravagant expenditure that is hidden from public scrutiny. The outcome of the proposed review would lead to reallocation of funding from the wasteful and unfocused public entities towards the ones that are genuinely delivering on their mandate.

 

The Office of the Premier has committed itself to roll-out the Youth Ambassadors programme, which commenced in 2010/11 financial year and even received an additional allocation in last year’s Adjustments Estimates. The objective of this programme is to enlist the youth to conduct provincial household surveys to profile the needs of their communities. 

 

The government’s intentions are generally good, but the wheels always fall off along the route of cadre deployments. This is due to the fact that some of these programmes fail to deliver on their mandates when they are put to the test. We will closely monitor this programme and ensure that it is solely used to serve the interests of government and not for party political purposes. 

 

Apart from conducting household surveys and implementation of other government programmes we suggest that the Youth Ambassadors could also be used as ambassadors for the 2011 Census since the quantification of exact population numbers in KwaZulu-Natal is important in the allocation of money to provinces through equitable share. 

 

On the same breath we propose that the Honourable Premier and his government play a crucial role, in words and action, to reap on the benefits of Durban’s hosting of the upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in November 2011 and to showcase the province’s diverse developmental programmes. This is a unique opportunity to build on the good work this government had done in the run-up to and during the 2010 Soccer World Cup in promoting our province as a tourist destination of choice.

 

We commend the commitment of the Honourable Premier and his cabinet to clean governance and his government’s decision to appoint former KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Shabalala to chair the internal disciplinary hearings of civil servants implicated in fraud and corruption. Such an appointment was long overdue.

 

We believe that such a high-profile appointment will raise the expectations we all have from this new anti-corruption structure. More importantly, we hope that the pressure on the Judge from this House, the media and the wider public will be enough for his disciplinary committee to yield positive results and act as an effective deterrent for errant officials.

 

However, the government’s commitment to fighting corruption in its own ranks should not end with the setting up of yet another corruption-busting body. The Office of the Premier must take this fight further and assist this Legislature, and specifically our SCOPA, as well as the wider public with opening access to the many outstanding forensic investigations, which have not been released for years.

 

Releasing these documents would not only bring closure to the many unresolved challenges in the provincial government but it would signal an era of new openness and transparency. Most importantly, it would add substance to the promises and pledges we have heard so often before.

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi, 082 516 0156