October 19, 2019

Briefs that show all: Could this help explain our water shortages?

Notes from the House publishes a regular column of briefs from Parliament that you normally wouldn’t get sight of. Please note, none of this is fake news, though you would be forgiven for thinking it could be.

The official opposition wants to know how former Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, ran up a bill of irregular expenditure of over R6.4 billion, according to the Office of the Auditor General. The AG noted that the dramatic spike in irregular spending started in 2014 when Mokonyane took over the reins.

We wait to hear an explanation, if and when Parliament proceeds with its plans about launching a full-scale inquiry into the extent of irregular, wasteful and fruitless spending by the Department, although the DA is worried that this figure could grow. A full-scale inquiry may expose the full extent of the department’s financial mess. It points out, “The irregular expenditure found thus far is only what has been uncovered by the AG through its limited analysis”.

For instance there are the five projects that have not been budgeted for; an overdraft of R2billion owed to the South African Reserve Bank; an unbudgeted R2,5billion for the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority; R848 million owed to municipalities and water boards; and the unbudgeted R524million spent on the war on leaks programme.

Mokonyane previously disclosed R4billion in irregular expenditure, not the R6.4 billion later identified, which in itself is alarming. What does the ministry tell the millions of people struggling without water, not only due to drought or climate change, (which can’t be blamed on the former Minister), but on poor infrastructure, possible corruption and gross mismanagement at a time when critical services were desperately needed.

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) has been trying for a very long time to somehow plug these leaks.

ACDP’s Dudley promises to keep up her fight for the unborn

Another attempt to amend the right to a legal abortion has been unanimously rejected by the Health Committee as fatally flawed. This was a private member’s Bill from Cherrylyn Dudley of the African Christian Democratic Party, who has been trying to amend the Bill since 2007.

In this latest attempt, her amendments included forcing pregnant women to watch scans of their foetuses and undergo compulsory counselling by a trained social worker to discuss the alternatives available, including adoption. Civil rights groups rejected this as manipulative.

A report presented to the Committee by the Department of Health estimated this would require16,000 additional professional staff and training of almost 12,000 existing staff. Add to that the need to procure scanning equipment for all clinics and hospitals in he country and the cost over five years was placed at around R47 billion.

The Committee pointed out that TB, virtually an epidemic in SA, has been allocated a budget of R21 million. This proposed Bill would result in an increase in total Department expenditure of about 20%. As the Committee said, if the Bill is not implementable there is no value in it being passed as legislation.

Dudley remains undeterred and has promised she will return to “better protect mom’s and their babies in times of crisis”. If only she would show the same determination to protect all of South Africa’s sick and vulnerable who are in need of better health services.

What exactly does the Pan African Parliament do?

Here is the list of SA’s new representatives at the Pan African Parliament: Thandi Modise, Thoko Didiza, Julius Malema, Mandlesizwe Zwelivelile Mandela, Sandy Kalyan and Santosh Vinita Kalyan. They took up their posts at the sixth Ordinary Session of the PAP held this month in Midrand.

It’s a strong team, and we are going to need that; the session’s opening theme was “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”

“We are looking forward to continue adding value to the various committees and plenaries of the PAP so that we strengthen the PAP’s role in improving the quality of lives of the people in our continent,” said team leader Modise.

Now that’s going to be a challenging task, made even more difficult by the fact that PAP still has no law-making powers.  

SA spreads its wings far and wide

South Africa’s total budget for its foreign missions for this financial year is R3,257 billion, which is not that much when you consider that SA has 46 missions in Africa, 31 in Asia and the Middle East, 28 in Europe and 17 in the Americas.

If you are worried that this could be considered wasteful expenditure in these times of cost-cutting, try regarding this as a contribution to the fight against unemployment. A total of 721 South Africans have jobs in these missions.

If that sounds like a very small drop in our unemployment ocean be comforted by the thought that it makes a difference to job creation worldwide, with a total of 1,754 non-South Africans employed in our missions abroad. Yes, taxpayers, that is indeed what your money is being spent on.

 If you would prefer to your money to be spent in SA

Here’s something that will please you. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has assisted 7,145 smallholder farmers over the past five years “through various financial and non-financial means”.

If that doesn’t sound like very much, the Department’s reports of its efforts thus far won’t make you feel much better. “Annual assessments of cooperatives performed by the department indicate that generally, the level of viability and sustainability of cooperatives in the sector is very low. Some of the contributing factors include heavy reliance on grant funding and inability to access financial support from mainstream financial institutions. Access to sustainable markets has been found to be a challenge as well.”

Don’t worry, though. DAFF has not given up. It performs regular “diagnostic assessments on cooperatives [to] assist them to upscale, improve productivity, efficiency and competitiveness”.

Additional Info

  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 17:14

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Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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