Tag Archive | service delivery

Parliament goes into winter recess

….Flat battery problems

…Parliament, unexpectedly, has become the stage for enquiries into corruption; poor governance; downright theft and for having to call to account a whole clutch of government heads for achieving absolutely nothing on service delivery, the last issue now emerging as a major headache for MPs on the ANC benches for the 2019 elections.

It’s all a bit like pushing a car to make it start.

The Parliament we know and understand has somewhat changed in nature. An overhaul of who does what is needed.  It now needs a stable, successful and vocal Speaker of the House who appears more conscious of the need for change, not only with national government issues but not so divorced from provincial and local needs across at the NCOP, where most of issues of the day seem to be occurring.

Pyramids that work

Parliament is clearly at a stage where good leaders with better communication skills are needed.  Talk is amongst the economics fraternity to consider some sort of constitutional change whereby the message and the money from the top to travels down correctly through the tiers of government below; monitored on how policy on service delivery is acted upon; subsequently audited for its correct application and with report backs on achievements provided in terms of the money’s original purpose. 

An example would be Eskom.  Despite its many problems, as a self-contained entity it is always way ahead in numbers in creating new electricity connections in far flung rural areas, more so than municipalities and larger towns nearer to their communities.  However, when local governments and entities are asked to pay their Eskom bill, the money allocated from the consumer either has been used for something else, or the debt is paid out of money allocated by national government for a service delivery item, say, housing. 

The few

For some reason few Ministers and parliamentarians stand out as good administrators, leaving straight-talking persons such as Minister Pravin Gordhan, Bantu Holomisa of the UDM, Themba Godi on the Standing Committee of Public Accounts, Yunus Carrim of the ANC and Chair of the Finance Standing Committee and Joanna Fubbs on the Portfolio Committee of Trade and Industry as lone voices of reason.

Clearly the country should be training more young Pravin Gordhans who are just as good on spending the money as the Minister was on collecting it and allocating it.

Whilst much of the debate in the National Assembly, which we do not report on because of its political nature, is deteriorating Portfolio Committee work, which we do attend since this is the “engine room” of Parliament, is belatedly being led in many instances by unsteady hands at the helm where “the new dawn” is not being reflected or respected.  

Biding time

Something must happen, since this mixture of indecision, bickering and with angry voters at the door is explosive.  Nobody, it seems, is coming on strong as to what the new direction should be.  Some analysts say that the new President is not biting the bullet. Then one hears in parliamentary corridors that ANC infighting remains intense and the baton remains not properly handed over to the new team.

State salary and wage allocations are sitting at R587 billion, representing some 38% of the annual budget and therefore the largest public service in Africa employing over 2 million people.    However, ANC MPs are struggling to come to terms with the fact that 47 ministers and deputy ministers who lead this massive machine are just not achieving what they say they are setting out to do.

Nothing happening

Whilst the democratic process in theory seems to be working better in Parliament, getting things done seems rather like the task the salmon has when swimming upstream. It’s all hard work.  The parliamentary committee “to do” list is building up, with deadlines on international agreements not being met, matters being continually referred to courts and MPs sitting on their cell phones catching up on the infighting within their own parties.

The price for realignment of committee tasks and the calling of President Zuma’s acolytes to answer for past incoherent and dubious decisions are taking up hours of parliamentary time in enquiries and investigative meetings.   If this were to be costed out on a business basis, it would amount to millions of rands.  The shadow of Zuma, still a force within the ANC, hangs over many parliamentary meetings like a storm cloud.

Not working

However, in our view, being voiced at last in Parliament is probably the real reason for getting nowhere. It’s not just a Zuma problem. It has much to do with the three-tiered government structure that we live by that has become dysfunctional.

National Government, who receive tax payer’s money and allocate it on a policy basis to all nine Provincial Governments, are just not talking to each other properly.  The Minister of Co-operative Governance, put there to co-ordinate by Jacob Zuma, was none other than Des van Rooyen but President Ramaphosa has now appointed Minister Zweli Mkhize to the post wgich may assist.

 Bad showing

In the meanwhile, the outcome of a time-consuming parliamentary process of studying what went wrong in the last ten years, who stole what, who is to blame and who the crooks are, is seriously detracting from the main task of Parliament, that of debate on new legislation and coherent oversight on government departmental performances.

Now, with Parliament about to close for its winter recess, looking back on Cyril Ramaphosa’s first parliamentary session, because of this internal political bickering we have to say this session ended in an atmosphere of overwhelming disappointment.                                                             

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