Debate on Public Works Budget Vote

By: Mbongeleni Joshua Mazibuko; IFP MPL
Member: KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Public Works Portfolio Committee
04 June 2020

Hon. Chairperson and Hon. Members; the Hon. MEC for the Department of Public Works and Officials of the Department; our Guests.

At the outset, we must register our grave concerns that on top of the budget cuts which the Department of Public Works has been experiencing, it is facing further cuts, which emanate from the national government’s efforts to reprioritise the budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Surely this Department will also be required to reprioritise certain areas.

As the IFP Members of the Public Works Portfolio Committee, we will be available to oversee and assist where possible as the Department undertakes this nearly impossible task.

And this tells us that the Department will find it nearly impossible to do justice to the mandate it has been given. This in turn will impact negatively upon the people of this Province.

MAINTENANCE OF BUILDINGS

The Department of Public Works plays a crucial yet focused role, in the development of KwaZulu-Natal and the upliftment of its people.

It shoulders the responsibility to provide and maintain buildings and related infrastructure for the public sector in a cost-effective way, while simultaneously attempting to provide these services in a manner that is beneficial to the development of the previously-disadvantaged.

Among the tasks of the Department are to monitor buildings that are used by both the employees and the public, to ensure that they always remain safe and conducive to human use. This is a mammoth task, which calls for them to be on their toes. Because if no proper monitoring happens, we may find ourselves in tragic situation which may take the lives of people.

In addition, proper maintenance contributes to raising the spirits of the government officials who work in them.

STATE LAND

One of the fundamental responsibilities of this Department is to keep an eye over all state land. Therefore, it is fundamental for the Department to keep accurate records of this very crucial asset. This is a very important, especially because South Africa is grappling with the land question. In addition, land is always in demand, as more desire to have access to it.

PROPERTY INDUSTRY

Hon. Chairperson, we wish to commend the Hon. MEC and her Department for their determination to tackle the question of the skewed property industry. Because it is an indictment to all of us that up to now, it is a space where Africans, as well as women, the youth and the disabled comprised a very negligible part.

These are steps that cannot be avoided if we want stability in our Province. Because in the light of rampant unemployment, the government is duty-bound to level the playing fields so that those who were disadvantaged in the past, get access to business opportunities.

As the Department puts it, they want to:

Ensure an equitable share of opportunities – introducing conditions in tender docs to prevent same landlords obtaining leases;
Increase participation by Black Africans and other vulnerable groups (women, people with disabilities, youth) in the property-leasing sector, by introducing procurement conditions requiring lessors to partner with members of these groups.

EXPANDED PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME (EPWP)

Hon. Chairperson; one of the issues on which we will keep an eye is that of the Expanded Public Works Programmes. While the Department’s record is not dismal, it is not beyond reproach. The records show that EPWP Budget for Public Works has been decreasing over the years. For 2020/21, the department’s EPWP Integrated Grant for Provinces’ allocation is R4.243 million, from R4.726 million in 2019, and R6024 million in 2018. This is proof of how this Department has been failing to fully utilise this Grant.

Department’s Role as Coordinator of EPWP

Hon. Chairperson; this Department shoulders a very important responsibility as the custodian of EPWP program.

Therefore, as the Coordinator, this Department shoulders the responsibility to urge other Departments to utilise this allocation. In fact, in its report, the Finance Committee expressed their deep concern about Departments which failed to spend this allocation. In its 2020/21 Budget Hearings Report, this Committee singled out two Departments that did not receive their allocation in the 202/21 period. The reason, according to the Finance Committee, was the failure of these Departments “to meet FTE targets in previous financial years.” It also called on the Department of Public Works to assist the Departments.

We will be always disturbed by underspending on the EPWP; because the EPWP plays a very crucial role as a buffer between hunger and many of our people.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion; allow me to record that the IFP supports the Budget.