Tag Archive | medium term budget

Minister Nene maps survival route

Not so merry Christmas….

Editorial……

candlesWithout wishing to put a dampener on festive arrangements, the last few weeks of the closing parliamentary session, which included the medium term budget from minister Nene, have seen a difficult period, not in the least caused by fiascos in the National Assembly with the EFF. Baiting President Zuma, whatever the reason, has nothing to do with running a country.

Such hooligan behaviour completely demeans the status of Parliament but worse, it also denigrates all the real work that is going on the engine room of Parliament, the working committees.  Some observers are quietly happy that the ANC Alliance is being called to account on certain matters but the overall effect has been to take South Africa perceptually into dangerous waters.

Nkandla unpleasant diversion

The Nkandla issue has clearly damaged the political standing of Parliament as well as giving the media a field day, or a field month as the case turned out to be.  But in the parliamentary portfolio, ad hoc, finance standing and NCOP select committees, the work has gone on and it has been a busy and difficult period as a result of the necessity to approve finance minister Nene’s medium term budget.

Difficult because some fifty utilities, government departments and section nine companies had to declare their objectives, say how things were going and reflect upon the auditor general’s findings on each of them.   Difficult because cabinet statements are really giving no true direction on questions being asked every day in Parliament.   Difficult because it is still the first year of a new Parliament and everything is running late with new MPs.

Whilst the auditor general (AG) may have declared that government departments only received 15% unqualified reports, the balance of 85% are qualified to some degree by the AG.  A learning process. This means the working committees have seen it, everyone knows about it and the system works. This is the difference between weekend newspaper reporting and monitoring. It is not just a question of putting a positive spin on things but recognising that there is, indeed, a force working for morality and financial correctness.

Focus is on medium term budget

Nevertheless, minister Nene’s budget speech was still the key issue of the last month, not Nkandla as the perception might be.  Nene’s remarks that “business is a key area in fostering the ideal that the NDP becomes a reality” had the all too familiar ring of what Alec Erwin had to say twenty years ago when the ANC promised private and public partnerships on energy matters. Nothing happened of course, the ANC embarking upon ten years of infrastructure inactivity.

In fact major private sector participation in the country’s development was totally halted at that point and has since never really got going.

When is when?

Now the question is being asked once again as to whether the government will actually ever embark upon real hard core private/public investments, other than dishing out a few solar and wind power projects. This is the question being asked by opposition MPs in Parliament at working committee level, ignoring for the moment the embarrassing fracas upstairs in the National Assembly.

It is difficult to imagine in parliamentary terms that minister Rob Davies, minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, minister Jeff Radebe, minister Lindiwe Sisulu and minister Lynne Brown will ever truly understand the tenets, motivations and passion that drive businesses, even perhaps the President himself.  South Africa suffers from bad politicians, not necessarily bad government.

Circus with no ringmaster

What the presidential national planning commission is actually saying to the cabinet is an issue that cannot be guessed at by anybody at this stage, such private messages certainly not being conveyed in Parliamentary papers. In fact nobody seems to be talking, the DA having as little knowledge as half the SA cabinet, it appears.

Consequently minister Nene’s hopes appear somewhat lame at this stage. To be positive however, it may be that as next year’s parliamentary oversight programme on service delivery targets gains momentum, as it has already, accompanied with all the political pain that will occur if voters remain dissatisfied, political reality may force the governing party to at last start walking the talk that minister Nene espouses.

Posted in cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament brings government to account

Editorial, October end…

Six month review of targets…

FSY001803or three weeks now, the parliamentary working committees have been exercising oversight on the forty seven government departments responsible for service delivery throughout the three tiers of government service.  In terms of the Constitution, oversight is necessary to qualify and quantify the appropriations made to each department for the next six months of the budget year.

Under each department have also come the reports of the many state owned entities (SOEs) described under section twenty nine of the Constitution and scheduled into categories under the Public Finance Management Act. There are the many national government business enterprises similar to Eskom and Telkom; then the funding entities controlled by boards such as the Road Accident Fund; and finally the less self sufficient and less commercial entities such as CSIR and SABS.

Owned by the public

Generally speaking, SOEs are funded from the public purse, meaning that the public has a legitimate interest in the workings of the SOEs.   In the case of the large national enterprises, it could be said that the public is an indirect shareholder through the shareholding minister. The new and so far quite successful system of evaluation by Parliament involves reference to performance rating by the newly established presidential evaluation department.  

Also contributing are the auditor general reports produced on time, and thankfully every time, by the backbone of South Africa’s essential and probably most un-applauded department, the office of the auditor general. We have watched these mainly young men and women in action. Thank heavens for their contribution.

Monolithic structures

Following minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene’s address on the medium term budget statement, there will follow a pause and even perhaps a vacuum of expectation.  It is an enormous machine that he addressed in the public sector; a government structure which has 34 ministers, 33 deputy minister, 159 directors general, 642 deputy directors general, 2,501 chief directors and 7,782 directors.

In a sour note, the Freedom Front pointed out for what it is worth that 40 years ago the country had 18 ministers, six deputy ministers and 18 directors general and in the most recent quarter of 2014 it has been reported, they said, that more than 44 000 public servants have been appointed bringing the number of public servants to just over 3m, or 22.6% of the total labour force of South Africa.

Catch 22

The dilemma now is that all the regulatory processes put in place to monitor spending of tax payer’s money could so easily establish more red tape and further hinder the delivery process.    But to be positive, the oversight system seems to be working and has established a far better ethos in spending procedures and also seems to have established an improved sense of morality.

Politicians such as chairperson of the standing finance committee, Joan Fubbs, may seem fuddy-duddy at times but such are erudite and responsible people and bad performance on delivery receives little change when in debate. Performance of SOEs is now is now clearly the key issue in South Africa and whether what is happening in Parliament can be translated down to provincial, municipal and local level, where local governance controls are often shaky, is now the constitutional issue facing minister Pravin Gordhan.

Bigger by the day

The overall trend is also clear – employment in the private sector has declined while public sector employment has grown. Public service and administration minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, in charge of what has been rapidly expanding public service, faces a major problem ahead in dealing with the intimidating annual wage negotiation period, which is not a good time to rein things in.

In the coming weeks, until the year end possibly, the uneasy feelings expressed in many portfolio committees that nothing is happening will probably persist until some sort of positive results emerge from the massive infrastructure spend. Like a tanker making a turn at sea, any large public service in any country is slow to respond and it will no doubt take time before this change in economic direction, now being better monitored in the parliamentary sphere, can be distinguished as a turn for the better.

Posted in cabinet, Finance, economic, Public utilities0 Comments


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