Provincial Legislature Of KwaZulu Natal
Budget Vote Debate On Public Works
Hon H Motala MPL
Honourable members and guests.
Honourable Chairperson, the Inkatha Freedom Party welcomes the Budget of R1 432 608 000 that has been allocated to the Department of Public Works for the 2016/2017 Financial Year.
Today, as we debate the Budget Vote 14, Public Works, let us be reminded that this department is mandated to provide and maintain all provincial land and building infrastructure in an integrated and sustainable manner.
In addition to this, the department is also charged with creating more jobs in our province as part of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP). It is crucial that those without employment, not only gain employment but are also trained in skills that will enable to remain employed after certain projects come to an end. But from my experience, and from what I have seen all over the province of KwaZulu-Natal, it is not the poor that get jobs, but those with political connections who benefit the most.
Honourable Chairperson, what I have noticed is that at council level there are ward councillors who take control of all jobs created in their ward through EPWP projects. Once there is a project to be implemented in their area they take personal charge of employing people and that is where the problem starts, because only family members and close friends are employed to the exclusion of those who are most needy. EPWP projects have become cash cows for ward councilllors in many areas. This is something that must be investigated and stopped if we are to see the real benefits of job creation through EPWP projects.
Honourable Chairperson, the Extended Public Works Programme in its current form cannot be the only tool used to address the unemployment challenge in this province especially when it comes to women and youth unemployment. The IFP continues to make the call that the EPWP strategy be reviewed to ensure that there is a proper transfer of skills. People who benefit from EPWP projects must be assisted to remain economically active. What happens to them after the project is completed? What skills does the EPWP leave them with? Are they suitably skilled to get employment in other sectors? We need to engage with such issues and ensure that this programme is fulfilling its intended purpose.
This Department has a very difficult task in meeting its Annual Performance Plan (APP) targets as it is dependent on various factors outside its influence and beyond its control. This department is, very often at the mercy of factors such as the weather, strike action on the part of workers and service providers who fail to conform to stipulated and agreed-to time frames. Therefore it is important that allowances must be made for these and other related factors when the department draws up its APP.
I note from the Green Book that in the 2015/2016 financial year, the department had set a target of creating 6 000 work opportunities but by the end of December it was only able to create 1 295 work opportunities. This is not even 22% of its target. But the department blames service providers for not submitting reports on work opportunities. This is unacceptable as it defeats the aims of the EPWP. What is even more surprising is that even though the department failed miserably in attaining its target, it increases its target to 6 500 in the 2016/2017 financial year. The department must be realistic in its targets and not aim to create a false impression.
The Green Book also tells us that the department was only able to meet 49% of its targets with regard to its Infrastructure Programme Implementation Plans. Although it is stated that 49% was in line with the department’s APP, I fail to understand why a department will plan to achieve 49% of its APP in December thus leaving the bulk of its target to be implemented before the end of the financial year.
Honourable Chairperson, asset management in most departments is not as reliable nor as accurate as it should be. Since the use of the PREMIS fixed asset management system expired at the end of March 2016, I hope the MEC will inform this House if the new asset management system known as ARCHIBUS is now operational and it will meet the needs of the department.
Since this department is the custodian of all provincial public buildings in throughout the province, whenever these buildings are in a poor condition, it is not the responsible department that looks bad, but it the Department of Public /works that gets the flack. When schools are in a state of disrepair, it is up to the Department of Education that should be identifying such schools and making funding available for the Department of Public Works to effect repairs and maintenance. The same would apply to provincial health facilities and other government office infrastructure.
It is unfortunate that we find most government buildings in poor condition with maintenance work sorely lacking. Since these are public facilities that are in daily use, this government will face legal challenges if people are injured while using the facilities that are not well maintained and are in a state of disrepair. Often it is found that contractors who are appointed to carry our maintenance and/or repair work at public facilities fall far short when it comes to the quality of workmanship. Heads of institutions are always complaining that contractors do not complete the job or that they provide shoddy work.
I want to urge the MEC and the officials of this department to ensure that service providers are competent and are capable of providing a good standard of work. It must be remembered that public funds are being utilised and therefore there must be a level of accountability. The department must have in place experienced, reliable and incorruptible managers who will undertake site visits and inspections before service providers are final signed off for payment.
Honourable Chairperson, the IFP welcomes the cost-cutting measures such as the non-filling of posts that are not critical and reducing spending on events that the department has announced. While we welcome these initiatives in light of the difficult economic times, it is important that the department is honest in its implementation of the cost-cutting measures that it has announced. It would be a sad day if this MEC follows in the footsteps of his colleagues in the cabinet and spend huge amounts of public money on radio and billboard advertisements that serve little purpose.
This department awards numerous contracts and engages the services of many service providers all over the province. It is therefore important that it has it house in order in so far as following the correct tender processes and supply chain prescripts. Very often service providers get away with shoddy workmanship or challenge tender processes because the correct legal processes were not followed. When this happens it is the citizens of this province who suffer the most since projects meant to benefit them are not complete on time. It is also important that senior officials in the department are beyond reproach.
Service providers who fail to meet certain standards and those who are involved in corrupt practices must be blacklisted across all government departments and not allowed to do business with government.
What we cannot afford is to neglect our constitutional obligation to do oversight on this department. We will differ and disagree as we progress in our work, but I think both of us will be doing so for one intention – that is, to benefit the citizens of our province.
Honourable Chairperson, the Inkatha Freedom Party supports the budget.
I thank you,
Mr Hassan Motala MPL
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