Debate On The 2010-2011 KZN Adjustments Appropriations Bill
By Dr LPHM Mtshali MPL

 

Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: 30 November 2010  

Honourable Speaker

 

 

The Bill before us today is an annual event by which this Legislature appropriates extra funds for spending on items which are unavoidable and which were unforeseen at the time of the provincial budget in February. It must be noted, however, that the term “unavoidable” has two distinct contexts. Expenditure can be unavoidable because a payment for services has been committed to and invoiced later, and expenditure can be unavoidable because the policy that led to it was wrong and wasteful.

 

In that sense, several provincial commitments could have been avoidable had the policy behind the expenditure been in the best interest of the taxpayer. The extravagant expenditure on functions such as the Inauguration of the Premier is clearly wasteful and it is doubly wrong to expect departments other than the Office of the Premier to share this cost. In the case of the Provincial Legislature, this particular event raises serious concerns about this government’s understanding of the concept of separation of powers.

 

Two examples of requested roll-overs that are disingenuous given their notoriety for going unspent in the past are the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme conditional grant at Agriculture and the Public Transport Operations Grant at Transport. Both allocations have long gone unspent to the extent that the latter subsidy ended up being transferred to another province in the past. We have pinpointed these two allocations as an illustration of a perennial challenge whereby conditional grants that often go unspent subsequently attract roll-overs in Adjustments Appropriations. We oppose such roll-overs on principle.

 

We have also raised eyebrows over the write-off of a number of irrecoverable staff debts in the Department of Royal Household, which are being covered in the current Adjustments Appropriations. It was wrong to allow such expenditure to accumulate since staff debts fall outside of the relevant legislation. No department’s budget provides for staff debt and the money spent for this purpose would have been transferred from its legitimate target. And it was equally wrong to write these debts off and, in doing so, incur further expenditure for the provincial fiscus. Writing off staff debt in one department sets the wrong precedent for the entire provincial government.

 

Honourable Speaker, each department should be guided by its own core objective within the constitutional mandate it performs, sometimes alone and sometimes in concert with other departments. The prerequisite for this is strong political leadership in individual government departments. In some cases, such as in the Departments of Social Development, and Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, this is lacking and the implications are there to see both from the perspective of service delivery record and audit outcomes.

 

In practice, this leads to a situation where Treasury appears to be driving the priorities for each department, because political leadership is not strong enough and monitoring not tight enough. One answer to this challenge is placing more emphasis on project-driven approach to governance. The provincial government is already pursuing a number of important projects that are tied to individual departments but the majority of these are a mere provincial extension of a national policy, often financed directly by National Treasury through conditional grants.

 

We in the Official Opposition contend that the introduction of project-driven governance at provincial level where the projects originate with us to suit our particular needs. We need to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach towards an individual approach tailored to our local context and specific challenges. This approach will work if we measure the implementation of our policies against clear milestones like budget expenditure, tual outcomes and added value. We also propose that reports on these project targets are carried out quarterly, so we can make interventions on time when we see work falling behind. Reporting on performance on an annual basis is not effective, because problems are often identified too late to be corrected.

 

A project-driven government will undoubtedly prove more accountable to the public by holding public sessions on real outcomes, like infrastructure projects. These should ideally replace the current izimbizo approach, which is regularly abused as a political platform rather than for meaningful government engagement and interaction with communities.

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Dr Lionel Mtshali, 078 302 0929