Co-operative Governance Crucial For Better Service Delivery
NCOP Debate on the National Public Works Budget Speech
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
Chairperson of the NCOP
Delegates from the Provinces
It is an honour for me to represent the Western Cape Provincial Parliament here today in my first appearance in the NCOP as the Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works. This new portfolio has taken me on a steep learning curve and brought me into contact with the many highly skilled professionals in my department, who are required to carry out our custodial and provisioning mandate in relation to state assets in a modern economy.
It is clear to me that if a government tolerates a less than efficient provision and management of infrastructure, its chances of meeting its economic growth and job creation targets are significantly reduced.
In my short time in office I have had the pleasure of interacting with both the National Minister and his Deputy Minister and have attended my first MINMEC in Public Works. It is certainly my intention, as I demonstrated in my time as Education Minister in the Western Cape, to work co-operatively with my national and provincial colleagues in every way possible – provided this is not at the expense of the ability of the Western Cape Government to fulfil the mandate received from the people of this province.
There is much food for thought in the budget speech delivered by Minister Nxesi. From a Western Cape Government perspective, I will limit myself to 6 of the aspects raised.
- Audit outcomes:
While the efforts of the National Public Works are lauded for shifting the audit outcomes from a disclaimed opinion to a qualified opinion, it would be remiss of me not to confirm that the Western Cape has made great strides in this area, in fact surpassing the national department. The Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works received a clean audit opinion for 2012/13. This is a considerable achievement by my predecessor and his team.
- Skills development:
While the actions taken by NPW are noted, what the National Minister appears to have overlooked in his speech is the continued utilisation of Cuban professionals to support the national government and other provincial public works departments. The Western Cape Government indicated that it will not participate in this programme. Instead we are firmly behind ensuring effective skills capacitation at a local level particularly amongst young people.
The National Department of Public Works (NPW) has highlighted two fundamental problems with the previous deployment of Cuban professionals here to South Africa. Firstly they are not registered with the professional councils and secondly they battle to speak English. So NPW is now considering that they should ensure that the professional bodies put aside their professional standards and recognise the qualifications of Cuban professionals.
What is forgotten in this approach is that the professional registration implies that those individuals are bound by ethical and professional standards and are liable should anything occur with the infrastructure from a design and construction perspective. Instances of buildings collapsing while in the construction phase come to mind.
Does the NPW therefore advocate the undermining of the profession, not holding individuals to account in their areas of work (as they would have left the country), and keeping deserving South Africans out of the industry?
In the Western Cape, we have been running a successful bursary and professional development programme for many years, the Masakh’iSizwe Programme, where young people on the programme generally graduate sooner than their counterparts, and with better results. Since 2009, there have been 314 graduates of which 77 were placed in the department upon graduation.
- Infrastructure Delivery Management System (IDMS):
The institutionalisation of the best practice Infrastructure Delivery Management System (IDMS) has made excellent progress in the Western Cape. The provincial Department of Public Works has worked collaboratively with the Departments of Health and Education to ensure that all necessary prescripts, documentation, procurement guidelines, infrastructure project plans and implementation processes are in place. The IDMS has already yielded some improvements in planning and coordination between the department and the client departments. This is leading to better integration of the client’s medium- and long-term needs into the Department’s programmes, thereby improving the relevance of targets set and their achievement.
- Leveraging the assets of the state:
The National Minister speaks of priorities which the Property Management Trading Entity will focus on. I am pleased to be able to report that as the Western Cape Government, this is what we are doing:
Firstly, we have identified key properties for regeneration purposes, where we issued an Expression of Interest at an Investor’s Conference in March 2014. Responses were received and we are now preparing the documentation for either outright disposal, development of a PPP or other mechanisms for their development. These projects are intended to generate sustainable income from the property portfolio to be allocated back for infrastructure delivery and maintenance.
Secondly, the Western Cape Government has completed a property portfolio efficiency assessment, to determine how well we are using the space we have as a government. But, we have taken it a step further. We do not compare ourselves with ourselves as a government – but with the private sector. Benchmarks have been set and it is now a task of the Western Cape to utilise its portfolio optimally.
Thirdly, we are not just seeking public private partnerships, we have moved actively with a PPP for the construction of office space for the Western Cape Education Department so as to reduce our reliance on leased space. The project was registered as a PPP with the National Treasury on 17 February 2011 and is progressing as planned. During January 2014, three bidders progressed to the bid stage which then closed on 31 March 2014. Final assessments are now being made of the bids and we will be making further announcements in this regard in the near future.
- Expanded Public Works Programme:
Let me begin by saying that the Western Cape fully supports the EPWP and understands that the intention is to provide temporary income relief for people. I can say that the institutional framework that the Western Cape put in place has been emulated by national Public Works for implementation across other provinces. The fact that all municipalities in the Western Cape are reporting on EPWP opportunities, and are receiving grants in support of projects shows that the Western Cape Government is responding to the policy imperatives set by the National Government in this regard.
However, the question to ask is why the national department feels that it must continuously change the information systems used to capture the EPWP data. The NPW introduced two reporting systems in 2009 and then in 2012 a new Integrated Reporting System (IRS) was supposed to replace these two in order to respond to the increased demands of capturing and reporting. While the IRS was rolled out in 2013, it was not evenly utilised. So, how accurate is the information provided by the national government?
But, let us be honest. Ideally we should be providing people with full time employment i.e. a real job. The Western Cape believes that this has to be the focus – growing the economy as well as ensuring that people have the skills needed to optimally participate in the economy. It does not appear as if the National Minister has a plan for building the economy and creating jobs. The National Government has promised the people jobs – not job opportunities. Our citizens deserve more from the government than the promise of an opportunity.
- Integrated and co-ordinated delivery:
What I see is absent from Minister Nxesi’s speech is a focus on intergovernmental co-operation and co-ordinated delivery. An intervention made by government, especially one which has an infrastructure focus, lands in a municipal space, and lands at a particular time. But, National Public Works are reticent to commit to collaborative and co-operative planning. This is problematic for municipalities. The Minister is silent in his speech in this matter.
The Western Cape Government, however, has tried to bring the national department together with provincial departments and municipalities to focus on specific projects in an attempt to show co-operative governance at work. We are driving integrated planning and co-ordinated delivery, through the District Infrastructure Plans and linking this into the Integrated Development Plan process of the municipalities. It is incumbent upon the NPW to open their doors through this province to the municipalities, to support delivery so that we all pull in the same direction and ensure that our limited resources achieve a greater impact to improve people’s lives. I appeal to the Minister and the Deputy Minister to ensure that this happens.