Budget debate on Public Works

Speech by: Hon. T.P. MTHETHWA, MPL
KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, Pietermaritzburg
04 June 2020

Hon. Chairperson

The IFP believes that it is the duty of the government to uplift society as whole, paying special attention to the underprivileged and the victims of apartheid, while removing all social and economic hindrances preventing individuals from developing to the maximum, their abilities and potential.

The IFP has dedicated the year 2020 as the year for Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. A formidable survivor and a man that is not easily ignored. A humble servant. A freedom fighter in his own right.

This is the year where IFP will work hard and come up with solutions where there are problems.

While the IFP supports the budget allocation of R1.77 billion, we are however concerned about the chronic culture of underspending. The Department has been underspending its budget in the last three financial years, and it’s highly likely that it underspent its 2019/2020 budget as well.

The Department reported that underspending has been for buildings and other fixed structures, due to poor performance of contractors and co-ordination issues.

This means that the Department does not have the capacity to perform its co-mandate, which can lead to a bad relationship and the breakdown of trust between the Department of Public Works and its client departments. The culture of underspending must be addressed.

This Department is crucial, as it is the custodian of public assets, comprised of immovable properties, land and other assets.  The Department holds these on behalf of the people of this Province. It is therefore important that the Department carries out its mandate and budget in an efficient, effective and transparent manner, as expressed in its vision.

The Department is spending millions of rands on rates and taxes of privately-owned buildings. These funds could be spent on more important needs of our people. Some millions are spent on empty and underutilised buildings.

The Department should build or buy its own facilities and buildings to house government offices. We are happy though that the current MEC has taken the issue of ownership of the buildings seriously. We cannot afford to allow those who were benefitting prior 1994 to continue benefitting, while the poor continue suffering

The Department owns thousands of properties in this Province but the majority of these properties are in a dilapidated state, and some are illegally occupied by criminals and foreigners. We urge the Department to not further delay the condition assessment programme of the 337 facilities, and to ensure that more facilities are included in this programme because their dilapidated state negatively affects the lives of our people. The Department must implement all the infrastructure projects, including maintenance tasks, at all its properties in the Province.

It is worrying that it takes years for this Department to complete its projects, as we have seen with the delays in awarding the new Ilembe District office buildings, the awarding of the contract for the Legislative Assembly complex in Ulundi, as well as the conversion of an existing workshop to a dining facility at the Mayville Conference Centre. It is unacceptable that because of these delays, the cost of the projects in KZN continue to sky-rocket beyond the regional and international standard for similar projects.

The IFP is concerned about the appointment of the incompetent contractors. Colossal amounts of money are wasted by awarding tender contracts to contractors who cannot do a good job and end up displaying shoddy work.

Authorities responsible for awarding contracts must ensure that companies awarded tenders are strictly scrutinised – considering experience, capacity to do the projects and qualifications – as they look at the profile. We urge you, Hon MEC, to entrench a performance-based system of contracts and move towards weeding out contractors who do shoddy work. They must be blacklisted.

It is a concern that this Department owes R63 million in property rates to 29 municipalities of this Province, most of which are struggling. This means that this Department is the culprit that causes local municipalities to fail to pay water and electricity bills. We urge the MEC to commit to paying all outstanding millions due to municipalities.

We noted that the Department indicated that due to budget cuts it will no longer be able to put trackers on its vehicles. Can the Department tell us about the safety measures it will use to ensure the safety of the vehicles?

In conclusion, the IFP is the voice of reason. Trust us, we will not let you down.