June 19, 2018

Stats SA's sums don't add up. Read parly briefs

Notes from the House publishes a regular column of briefs about the things that go on in Parliament that you wouldn’t normally see. This is not fake news – though you may wonder if all of it can possibly be true.

Stats SA gets sums wrong on budget

Stats SA may not be able to pay salaries as a result of budget shortfalls, the Portfolio Committees on Public Service and Administration as well as Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation have reported to the House.

The latest Committee report shows that Stats SA met 87% of its targets scheduled for the third quarter. What is worrying the Committee though is not whether it is able to deliver accurate statistics. It’s more to do with Stats SA losing count of its own sums, with a projection of an overspend of R102.412 million in the 2017/18 financial year, mainly on compensation of employees and operational costs.

Or maybe Stats SA can still count, but it’s the cut in its budget by R141 million in the 2017/18 financial year that leaves the stats wizards scratching their heads to work out how it can still possibly add up.

Perhaps the vacancy rate of 13.7% which amounts to 350 funded posts caused by the budget shortfall has left the financial wiz’s unable to get their sums right?

Parliamentary VIPs secret police

Jacob Zuma’s legacy includes a 6,600-strong private army that cost R2.6-billion a year and is accountable to no one‚ according to new research reported in a report by Gareth van Onselen of the South African Institute of Race Relations.

He found spending on VIP protection “exploded” during Zuma’s presidency. In nine years under his predecessor‚ Thabo Mbeki‚ it cost R4.3-billion. Over the next decade‚ that rose to R18.2-billion.

“If Cyril Ramaphosa is elected president in 2019‚ just the first two years of his new administration ... will cost R5.8-billion in VIP protection‚” Van Onselen says in the report.

While the budget for VIP protection remain “shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation”, and the figures are somewhat dated, 88 protectors were assigned to protect the President. Taking the average number of citizens served by each police officer, this means that the president’s level of protection is more than 30‚000 times that provided to the average citizen.

The logic behind Mohlaloga’s removal

By now it is public knowledge that Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Council member, Manyaba Rubben Mohlaloga, has been removed from his post due to his conviction on charges of fraud and money laundering.

The Portfolio Committee on Communications considered the request from the Minister of Communications for the removal of the councillor in terms of section 8 of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act (Act No. 13 of 2000) (“ICASA Act”), which lists fraud as a reason for disqualification.

The Committee considered representations received from Mohlaloga. While it did not dispute the guilty verdict, it did think that representations could be considered as to the nature of the fraud, the amount of money involved, the person or entity who suffered the loss and whether collectively these issues created a lack of trust in Mohlaloga. Thankfully, the Commttee agreed that the fraud conviction was extremely serious, involved a substantial amount of public money that was meant to be used for the benefit of emerging black farmers (this at a time when Mohlaloga was Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture), which it said raised serious concerns over conflict of interest and whether the transaction was fraudulent or not.

Under these circumstances the Committee agreed “that there is a reasonable apprehension that Mr Mohlaloga cannot continue in a position of trust and authority” and he was removed.

One wonders under what circumstances the Committee could have reached a different decision. If he had stolen less money, or money intended for a different purpose, could he have been retained in what is referred to as a position of trust?

Last modified on Thursday, 19 April 2018 16:37

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Notes from the House is an independent weekly email newsletter that tracks and monitors Parliament in its role of holding government to account and passing legislation to improve people’s lives. It aims to bring you the news from Parliament that you don’t get elsewhere. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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