The ACDP is pleased to have participated in this debate today and thanked Premier Helen Zille for the State of the Province address she delivered last Friday. We acknowledge and congratulate the Premier and her cabinet for the numerous successes achieved in this term of office so far.
The State of the Province address is an important annual opportunity for the Premier to encapsulate, in one address to the 5,8 million people living in the Western Cape, and indeed all South Africans, an explanation of what the Western Cape’s challenges and opportunities are, what the Provincial Governments track-record is in dealing decisively, inclusively and sustainably with these, what successes have been recorded and what the government intends doing to address the shortcomings and other looming challenges. It is also an important opportunity to speak to the issues of national concern, including poverty, unemployment, inequality, corruption, racism and the rape, abuse and murder of women and children.
In the limited time available to me for this reply, I focussed on a few of the priority opportunities the ACDP believes need to be addressed.
Amongst the numerous national challenges, corruption remains prominent, with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) confirming last year that fraud and corruption in state procurement processes cost South Africa some 25-30Billion per year. In the very least, this directly undermines governments’ ability to sustainably and tangibly address the numerous growth and development backlogs and challenges our economy, families and communities face daily. Promises are seldom enough. Instead, we all desire feedback on performance in identifying corruption, rooting it out, exposing the perpetrators and preventing it in the future.
Like the ACDP and other opposition political parties, the DA is vociferously outspoken against the unacceptably high levels of corruption across South Africa. In fact the DA, as government of the Western Cape, has publically committed itself to achieving clean audits in all departments and entities by 2014, as part of South Africas ‘Operation Clean Audit 2014’ programme. Indeed, achieving financially unqualified audit results with no findings (‘clean audits’) from the Auditor-General (A-G), is one of the primary yardsticks of our national anti-corruption drive.
The three year term-of-office trend so far for the DA government of the Western Cape (from 2009/10 to 2011/12) showed general improvement in audit results in 2009/10, but this was followed by stagnation in 2010/11 and even regression in audit results achieved in the following two years. In the 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial years, only four departments out of fourteen achieved clean audit status – a regression from the eight that achieved this audit outcome in the 2009/10. Aggravating this, one department regressed to a ‘qualified with findings’ audit result last year. Across the Western Cape government, the A-G found evidence of irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, material misstatements in their financial statements, non-compliance with laws and regulations, non-compliance with predetermined objectives, procurement and expenditure irregularities, amongst others.
What makes matters worse is that the Western Cape Housing Development Fund annual report and audited annual financial statements remains outstanding. Regrettably too, the Provincial Development Council was closed down in December 2011 but no financial accountability and oversight processes were provided to the watch-dog body of Parliament, the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (SCOPA), which the ACDP Chairs.
But as worrying as these trends are, nothing was mentioned about corruption in the Premiers address. Unless this was an unfortunate and regrettable oversight, it can only have been excluded, but then why? Is it because actually addressing corruption is less important than fiery rhetoric around it? Or is it because the DA believes the levels of corruption in the Western Cape is acceptable simply because the ANC’s is worse in other provinces and nationally (which it is)?
The ACDP is deeply concerned about this glaring omission and strongly recommends that the Western Cape government clearly and urgently spells out its anti-corruption detection, prevention and eradication plan so that it achieves clean audits across all departments in 2014.
The ACDP acknowledges the important progress made in education across the Western Cape towards increasing National Senior Certificate pass numbers, reducing the number of poor performing schools, and the numerous other tangible deliverables.
Is it good enough that only 57% of grade 10 learners are retained in the school system from grade 10 until grade 12 and that 82,8% of those pass, just because this is higher than the national average and other provinces? The ACDP believes the answer is No!
Instead of benchmarking the provinces good performance against the poor performance of other provinces and nationally, the ACDP challenges the Western Cape government to assess the extent to which it is meeting the needs and aspirations of our learners, families, communities and businesses of the Western Cape. When this is the measurement, then we must all acknowledge that much more still needs to be done.
Similarly, given the ongoing need to urgently address widespread substance abuse in all communities, and deal effectively with its increasingly devastating effects on the individuals, families, communities and the economy, is it good enough that almost the only deliverable that is verifiable is that the number of treatment addiction centres have increased from 8-24 since 2008?
The WC Department of Social Development published caveats in their 2011/12 Annual Report that it cannot verify much of its own performance statistics. The A-G concurred, finding that 92% of these indicators were not verifiable, and that sufficient information and audit evidence was not available to verify the validity, accuracy and completeness of the claims the department published in its Annual Report. The reality is that few of its claims can be believed even though the media rhetoric lauds its successes. Where does this leave the department in terms of the millions it has spent on these programmes? Watch this space for more on that.
FARMWORKER STRIKES AND THE NEW MINIMUM WAGE:
The ACDP is disappointed that the Premier did not use this important occasion to acknowledge the validity and provide details of how it will deal with urgent questions arising out of National Minister Mildred Olifants recent announcement that the minimum wage for farm workers be raised by 52% to R105 per day from March 1st.
No plan was presented to deal with the inevitable increase in unemployment caused by a progressive but necessary switch to mechanisation and other drastic cost saving and productivity increasing measures many farmers will be forced to introduce in order to retain farm financial viability, competitiveness and their contribution to national food security demands.
Furthermore, we share fears that these realities could lead to widespread increases in unemployment, with this inevitably exacerbating already strained farmer / farmworker relations, especially in rural farming communities. Yet, these important and urgent realities were not addressed, neither were those around governments role in identifying and addressing agriculture sector issues earlier so as to prevent strike action from devastating crops, threatening food security and undermining international confidence in our exports and even our tourism offering.
In the six minutes I had to speak, I didn’t manage to address the farmworker strike and new minimum wage matter mentioned earlier, or our concerns relating to their housing delivery track record or their implementation approach to the laudable ‘Whole of Society’ theme that ran through the State of the Province address. I will address these in the coming weeks.