BY HON. P GOVENDER OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Greetings to the Hon. MEC, the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition, Hon. V.F. Hlabisa, and all Hon. Members.
Hon. Speaker, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced people and institutions across the globe to re-evaluate and re-structure not only institutional protocols, but the very way we live our lives. Plans that we make and structures that we put in place need to be constantly assessed and evaluated, to ensure that they serve the needs of our people wherever they may find themselves.
In terms of Section 31 of the Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1999, which deals with Provincial adjustments budgets, all Departments had to cut budgets and re-prioritise their spending in order to fund Covid-19 pressures.
The Department of Social Development saw its budget reduced by R64.202 million and this will indeed put a strain on the Department’s activities. Over the past few years we were concerned about the non-filling of posts, but with Covid-19 restrictions, interviews were not able to take place. To make matters worse, we were informed that the budget cut will affect 259 posts. The shortage of staff will certainly have a negative impact on service delivery, especially since now, more than ever, we need additional social workers in the field. Communities across our province are reeling under the lockdown restriction rules, and this negative impact will be with us for a long time to come.
It is of serious concern to the IFP that this Department has a history of underspending on its budget, as well as not being able to meet performance indicators that it sets for itself. Since performance targets are not imposed upon the Department but are determined by the Department itself, there can be no excuse for underachievement.
In 2019/20 the Department underspent its budget by R33.37 million.
The Department underperformed on 37 out of 50 performance indicators. In
Programme 2, which is the core mandate of this Department, it has underachieved in 8 Performance Indicators. In Programme 3, it underachieved in 11 out of 15 Performance Indicators. In Programme 4, it underachieved in 6 out of 7 Performance Indicators.
So now to use the Covid-19 lockdown as an excuse for not meeting their Annual Performance Plan targets, does not hold water.
In the first quarter, the Department has only spent 18.7% of its budget, against a 25% benchmark, and only spent 12.4% of Conditional Grants against a 25% benchmark.
Hon. Speaker, now that we have an Adjusted Budget, the concern for the IFP is whether this budget will be used for the benefit of the citizens of our province, or whether much of it will find its way into the deep pockets of some greedy and unscrupulous officials and service-providers.
I am reminded of the R22 million that was paid to four service providers to provide blankets at the start of the lockdown. The IFP thanks the Hon. Premier for instituting a swift investigation and the report that was presented. This has led to the suspension of the Acting HOD, the Acting Supply Chain Manager, the Chief Financial Officer, Cluster Chief Directors and some SCM officials.
It is totally unacceptable that a needs analysis was not done but orders were placed in March and money was paid to the four service-providers. Some service-providers were paid in full, even before delivery of the blankets. It was reported that some service-providers were working out of houses with no proper business premises and the blankets supplied did not comply with specifications in terms of size and quality. In this procurement alone there was a loss of over R15 808 million. These are much-needed funds that could have been used to assist the vulnerable across our province. The Department reported that out of the 48 000 blankets, only 4 982 were distributed and the balance of over 43 000 blankets were stored in unsecured premises across the province.
There is still no clarity as to where those blankets are being stored, whether they are being distributed and if so, how are recipients being identified. There were a number of questions around the compliance and capacity of the suppliers that were engaged to supply blankets.
Hon. Speaker, with regard to the supply of PPEs, 11 service providers, some of them not compliant with Treasury regulations, received contracts from the Department. It is evident that proper vetting of potential service providers was not done. Suddenly we saw a whole lot of new suppliers of PPEs springing up all over the place and securing huge contracts, with the assistance of well-placed and corrupt officials within the Department.
Hon. Speaker, even though the Hon. Premier acted swiftly in investigating the blanket saga, we then heard about the R25 million that was paid to three NPOs to supply food parcels in three clusters across KwaZulu-Natal. This Department was supposed to deliver 88 454 food parcels per month in July and August but only delivered 1 025 in both months. The Portfolio Committee was not satisfied with the excuses that we were given for the non-delivery and lack of accountability. We were told that there are logistical problems with the delivery process. But the IFP will argue that surely Department officials knew of the challenges before awarding the contracts to service providers that did not have the capacity. The fact that the Department had to provide the NPOs with trucks, bakkies, forklifts and even petrol cards tells us that the NPOs did not have the capacity to fulfil their obligations. The questions that arise are why were under-resourced NPOs chosen; when were the vehicles purchased; do those vehicles now belong to the Department; what were they used for if the food parcels were not delivere; how much money was spent on the petrol card and for what purpose? The list of questions is endless.
It is clear that there were contraventions of Sections 38, 39, 40, 45 and 81 of the PFMA in both these procurements.
The IFP is urging all government departments to blacklist companies and individuals who have been found to be complicit in corruption.
We have noticed that funding for food parcels is in the sub-programme for HIV/Aids, when rightfully it should be located in the sub-programme for Social Relief.
Hon. Speaker, whilst the world and our country face the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, this Department is facing a virus of incompetence and corruption on a massive scale. Of late, this Department has been making the news for all the wrong reasons.
Hon. Speaker, it is said that greed is an unquenchable thirst, it is like salt water – the more salt water you drink, the more thirsty you become and the greed deepens. If the Hon. MEC and the Hon. Premier are indeed sincere about clean governance and rooting out corruption, then the investigation into the blanket and food parcel sagas must be fast-tracked, and taken to their logical conclusions. If officials who have been implicated and suspended are found to be complicit in corruption, they must be charged, and, if guilty, they must go to jail. Only when we see officials wearing orange overalls instead of black suits, will a clear message be sent to other would-be thieves within government departments. When the Hon. Premier took office, he made a commitment to clean governance and consequence management.
We need to see tangible consequences for those who are found to be stealing from the public purse. Theft of taxpayers’ money must not be allowed to continue. Officials who steal from the poorest of the poor cannot even be called vultures because vultures eat off the dead, but these unscrupulous officials feed off living human beings, who they are being paid to serve. These officials have no place in government departments, let alone in the Department of Social Development.
The IFP will continue to be the moral compass against fraud, corruption and maladministration.
I want to urge the Hon. MEC Khoza to get tough with officials in this Department.
The IFP commends all social workers and officials who remained on duty and faced the challenges as front-line workers. Your efforts are truly appreciated.
I take this opportunity to wish all Hindus who are fasting during the month of Purtassi all the best, and may their prayers help to rid over government of corrupt officials.
Hon. Speaker, the IFP supports the Adjusted Budget of the Department of Social Development.
I thank you.