Public Works does not work

Democratic Alliance KZN Public Works Budget Debate (Edited version)
Sizwe Mchunu, MPL - DA KZN Spokesperson on Public Works

The manner in which KZN’s Department of Public Works is budgeted for is a serious problem in that it is misleading, with the amount approved never the same sum that ends in up in the Department’s coffers. As with all other KZN government departments, Zuma’s ANC’s 1% Tax increase also stands to cripple this Department with the impact felt most severely by the poor. Then there is the blow as a result of Izinduna’s remuneration, a Zuma-imposed unfunded budgetary mandate. This is a matter that must be appropriately addressed once and for all as a financial responsibility of the National Government.

The DA believes that the KZN Department of Public Works is well positioned to be the leading department in creating jobs, opportunities and eradicating poverty for the people of KZN. It is also this particular department that can afford opportunities to SMME’s to gain skills, expertise and experience and assist in creating jobs.

We therefore strongly condemn the deliberate destruction or interfering with state- awarded contracts by organizations or so-called business forums like Amadela Ngokubona. This must be rejected with utmost contempt. The fact that such organizations even find it easy to destruct and demand shares from state-awarded contracts, is an indication of weakness in the province’s political leadership.

Currently, there seems to be some confusion amongst our people about the role of this Department. The perception is that it is mainly meant or responsible for creating and providing state jobs to our people. While the perception is not true, the DA does believe that the Department has missed many opportunities to create sustainable jobs for the poor.

In spite of this, the DA commends MEC Pillay and his Department on their attempts to advance the National Development Plan’s key objective of a capable state but there is still a long way to go.

The DA’s view of a capable state is that of a state that is responsive to the challenges of our people. A capable state brings about an environment where all citizens are treated equally without any form of discrimination. A capable state requires a government that recognizes and is responsive to the imbalances of the apartheid regime.

Here in KZN, it is also alarming to note that various client Departments have little or no faith in the Department of Public Work being the implementing agent of choice. This amid complaints about the quality and turnaround time in handling their orders. Every time this portfolio committee visits schools across the province we hear about the enormous amount of time it takes the Department of Public Works to fix a broken door or window.

Other issues plaguing this department include;

_ Government not paying service providers timeously. Service providers are battling and finding it difficult to grow their businesses as they are in the main let down by government
- Linked to this is the fact that various government departments owe municipalities enormous amounts of money for rates and other municipal tariffs. This situation imposes a serious financial impediment to municipalities
- KZN’s government is also spending far too much money on renting properties. In 2014, it spent more than R280 million on renting properties for various Department. I have no doubt that this amount is way over R300 million at this stage. Can you imagine how far would that amount go in addressing basic needs for the poor?

Another critical challenge facing this Department is rooting out corruption and imposing severe sanctions to officials or departmental employees who are found involved in corrupt activities. There is also a critical need to open up procurement processes or systems to public scrutiny if we are to root out corruption. The DA is already doing this and it can be done here.

This Department must also improve its systems of dealing with defaulting service providers. An explicit and strong message has to be sent to service providers that have defrauded the state. Shoddy workmanship should by now be the thing of the past.

KZN, like the rest of the country is still battling to tackle the triple challenges of our poverty, inequality and unemployment. In KZN unemployment and poverty levels are rising and people are gradually losing faith or trust on government. There is a growing feeling that this government under Jacob Zuma failed to deliver on any its promises. In fact people of KZN have lost faith in the ability of the ANC to lead our country and our province.

Under a DA-led government, Public Works would work. All that we need is the opportunity to put into action our ideas for this Department. Like every season brings its own experience and uniqueness, the DA is ready to deliver a Department of Public Works for the people of KwaZulu-Natal that is caring, responsive and creates sustainable jobs.

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