Debate On The 2010-2011 KZN Adjustments Appropriations Bill
By Roman Liptak MPL

 

Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: 30 November 2010  

Honourable Speaker

 

First of all, I wish to compliment Provincial Treasury and the MEC for Finance for all their hard work in bringing down overspending and towards a positive cash position for the province. Last year, negative cash position was a persistent reality and overspending seemed far more ominous. The interest on the overdraft, although still high, has been reduced and the savings are being used to upgrade the provincial asset register and to reconcile intergovernmental debt, the two issues that have long been pursued by both SCOPA and Finance committees.

 

These are positive developments as is the attention the MEC is now paying to specific government procurement issues, such as emergency deviation from the Treasury Regulations and inflated prices of goods and services. On the whole, the numbers of investigations and, more importantly, prosecutions in the abuse of housing subsidies and social grants by provincial government employees are encouraging, but what we really need to drive the government’s anti-corruption message home are high-profile prosecutions. As the legislative arm of government, we mustn’t allow the large numbers of successfully prosecuted small fry detract from the fact that high-profile investigations seem unfocused and that these cases seldom reach the courtroom.

 

In recent past, Adjustments Appropriations were there to give more money to the government to pay its employees whose salaries had been diminished by the rampant inflation that had hit the country since the budget was announced. This year is a partial exception. While the inflation rate has dropped close to three percent, the government nevertheless agreed to a 7.5 percent annual increase in the public sector wages.

 

Given the size of the public sector wage bill, it is hard to see how this move will not reignite inflation in the South African economy. Our immediate concern in this province is that although National Treasury has supplemented this unfunded mandate, this still leaves the provincial fiscus with a shortfall of some R113-million. It is now a given that wage agreements will continue to create havoc in the province’s finances on an annual basis.

 

On the list of provincial commitments, it’s good to see two outstanding issues nearing completion, namely the allocation towards the long-outstanding debt on service charges on government properties owed to the Ulundi Municipality; and the allocation to John Ross Highway and Sani Pass road. It is also very encouraging to see a R40-million allocation to the Msunduzi Municipality towards the upgrade of the Pietermaritzburg Airport. But considering the financial crisis at this municipality, both Treasury and this House will need to see to it that this money reaches its target. One item that raises eyebrows is the final payment towards the feasibility study for the new Legislature complex. Given the history of this project as a would-be white elephant, it is hard to view this expenditure as anything but fruitless.

 

One allocation that will require strenuous oversight both by the portfolio committee that oversees the Premier’s Office and by SCOPA is the R20-million allocation towards the deployment of youth ambassadors across KwaZulu-Natal. The purpose of this project is noble. Its timing, however, being so close to the local government elections is suspect as is the record of this government, both at provincial and national level, on youth development issues. One only needs to consider the controversies surrounding the National Youth Development Agency, which is doing a great deal for the ANC, but very little for the youth. This House will need to be briefed in detail on how much of the R20-million will go towards the administration of this scheme, how much will be paid out in stipends and to whom, who will administer the scheme and who will process the research findings  it seeks to compile.

 

One area where Treasury, in my view, has missed an opportunity to allocate more funds in this year’s adjustments estimates is towards performance management of the entire provincial government. In the past, the Auditor-General has raised concerns around this and we now anticipate comprehensive audits of the government’s performance. What the government should be carrying out is an audit on its existing performance evaluation processes. This should include more comprehensive performance management of Ministers and Heads of Department, with clear, tangible goals set, on which they must deliver, including qualitative measurements of outcomes, not just quantitative measures of outputs. Where necessary, performance should be measured outside of the standard Public Service Commission guidelines, which are currently being used and which are mostly quantitative.

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Roman Liptak, 078 302 0929