Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Friday, 26 November 2010
Perhaps the most important issue that came out of
this year’s mid-term reviews was the undertaking by the Hon. MEC for
Finance that Treasury would furnish the finance committee with an
overview of all ongoing investigations conducted both by Treasury’s
internal audit unit and external agencies. The secrecy, which has
long surrounded the outcomes of numerous investigations, has been
the single largest obstacle for this House and its portfolio
committees to conduct an effective oversight over the executive.
This is an important step forward and we hope that
the overview of all ongoing investigations will be updated regularly
with briefings from the relevant departments. This is indeed an
opportunity to catch up with the portfolio committees in the
National Assembly and other Legislatures which generally have a
better track record of interrogating internal audit and forensic
Although we appreciate this new spirit of
openness, we do not accept the argument advanced by the Hon. MEC for
Finance regarding the reasons for further withholding some
outstanding forensic audit reports, particularly the infamous
Agriculture report. We contend that the law enforcement agencies,
which the MEC claims have advised against the release of this
report, may have their own motives for the delay, which is now
nearing five years.
We wish to refer the Hon. MEC to the legal opinion
provided by this very Legislature, which discounts all
justifications for invoking the sub judice rule unless the issue at
hand has actually reached court, which is clearly not the case with
the Agriculture report. It is time for this House to interrogate
this and other outstanding reports through the relevant portfolio
Another critical issue to emerge from the mid-term
reviews was that of high levels of staff vacancies, which continue
to compromise service delivery in the Departments of Health,
Co-operative Governance and elsewhere. I would like to assure this
House that we in the Official Opposition understand the complexity
of staff vacancies in relation to the rocketing personnel
expenditure in all spheres of government.
But, at the same time, we feel that critical
vacancies must and can be filled without too much fiscal instability
as long as the provincial government makes a serious effort to
address and prevent unmanaged over-expenditure emanating from the
implementation of various unfunded mandates, including the
Occupation Specific Dispensation.
The provincial government must use its leverage in
all intergovernmental forums to ensure that legislation passed at
national level does not impose unfunded mandate onto provinces and
municipalities. By the same token, the same applies to the
provinces, which should be equally cautious about enacting
legislation that imposes financial obligations on local government.
We believe that unfunded mandates can be prevented
if the operational impact of national policy decisions, such as
OSDs, is determined at intergovernmental level and agreed with the
relevant provincial government department prior to implementation.
Similarly, there should be alignment between
political decisions and operational implementation and agreement
should be reached for any proposals on increases of service levels
prior to their announcement. And finally, the availability of
funding must also be negotiated and confirmed.
One other issue that impacts on critical staff
vacancies is that little or no attention has been paid to improving
staff retention in most government departments. The one incentive
that supplements a meaningful staff retention strategy is often a
meagre scarce skills allowance.
In an environment where highly specialised skills
are vital to deliver services, the payment of a miniscule sum per
month is an insult to the skilled worker concerned. This is the
reason why specialists opt for greener pastures in the private
sector, where their skills and experience are appreciated and
We therefore urge all the MECs to introduce urgent
and meaningful measures to retain the skills that are left in their
departments, ensure proper training and conduct a vigorous
recruitment drive in order to attract the sort of people needed to
perform critical services – even at the cost of extending or
renewing the moratorium on the filling of non-critical posts
whichever is the case.
I thank you.
Contact: Roman Liptak, 078 302 0929