November 16, 2018

Question Time raises more questions than answers

One of Parliament’s chief objectives is oversight of the executive, and one of the primary tools it uses to achieve this is Question Time.

Questions for oral or written reply can be put to the President, the Deputy President and Ministers, and gives Members of Parliament the opportunity to monitor the Government’s service delivery. However, much of the time the answers leave South Africans with more questions and few answers. Here is a small sample.

When was someone finally going to ask this one?

H O Mkhaliphi (EFF) asked the Minister of Home Affairs whether his department issued Atul Kumar Gupta with a South African passport. She also asked whether Rajesh Tony Gupta got a South African passport and what about Shivani Gupta, the holder of ID number 700510 1418 186?

Reply

Yes, indeed. In fact, Atul got five passports, Tony got eight. But Shivani S Gupta, the holder of this ID number 700510 1418 186, has never been issued with a South African passport. However, the same person, with ID number 700510 1418 087 has two active passports.

Where ever did we get the idea that the Guptas were above the law?

What will happen to the vulnerable?

Evelyn Wilson (DA) asked the Minister of Social Development whether her department’s nonprofit organisation directorate was informed of Limpopo’s decision to cancel contracts with over 400 NPOs for home-based care for poor and vulnerable citizens for the 2018-19 financial year, not to mention their more than 15 000 home-based care workers.

Reply

The Minister’s answer was: “Refer to the Department of Health.”

Careful, Minister. We don’t want another Life Esidimeni tragedy.

TVET students kept waiting, and in the dark

Andricus van der Westhuizen (DA) asked the Minister of Higher Education and Training about progress on the bids for the construction of 10 new technical vocational education and training college campuses. Bidding closed on 17 June 2016.

Reply

Not a single contracting process has been completed, which means the 4,657 students who could have gone to college will now just have to wait. Indefinitely, perhaps.

Little progress in Public Service Commission disciplinary cases

Sarel Marais (DA) asked the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans how he was getting on with the 175 disciplinary proceedings regarding financial misconduct reported by the Public Service Commission and how many have been completed.

Reply

A grand total of 21 cases had been completed by the end of February 2018. Clearly, there is still a long way to go.

No wonder electricity costs are so high

William Madisha (Cope) asked the Minister of Public Enterprises what meter-reading costs Eskom.

Reply

Eskom paid R70.4 million to meter reading contractors in the financial year 2016/17 and costs for the current year, as at January 2018, was R60.7 million. That’s an average cost to Eskom for meter reading of R28.57 per urban installation, R50 per rural installation and R61.73 for the average farm.

The meter readers are in better financial shape than Eskom itself.

Damn, we badly need more dams

Makoti Khawula (EFF) asked the Minister of Water and Sanitation how water levels in dams have fared in our democracy, in other words since 1994.

Reply

The detailed excel spreadsheet listed minimum and maximum water levels of about 30 dams, which makes this a very difficult question to answer. But what we find from the facts is that of the 30 dams, six new dams have been built since 1994. That’s encouraging – even if we really need many more dams.

Dodged that bullet

 Deidre Carter (Cope) asked the Minister of Energy what he was doing in Russia in February this year at a meeting with the Russian Minister of NaturalResources and Environment.

Reply

Yes, we would all like to know if there are any plans still on the cards for nuclear energy. But no luck. “I wish to inform the Honourable Member that as a recently appointed Minister of Energy, I am not privy to the requested information.”

Lights still out, but if you wait until 2021 you may be connected

Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela (EFF) asked the Minister of Energy why Mqanduli village in Lower Thyolo in the Eastern Cape is still without electricity 24 years into our democracy, and when will all households have access to electricity.

Reply

Here is good news at last. Well some good news. A project for Mqanduli is underway, targeting 500 connections in the 2017/18 financial year. Of these 289 connections have already been completed, and another 211 connections will be completed within the next three months. Another 420 connections are planned for the 2018/19 financial year, and the balance of the houses will be done in the 2020/21 financial year, if – and here’s the catch – funds are available. Of course.

What’s the plan to improve basic education?

Ian Ollis (DA) asked the Minister of Basic Education which provinces will see a decrease in their provincial education budget, by how much and how is it going to affect them?

Reply

The Eastern Cape, Free State and North West Provincial Education Departments have a budget baseline reduction in the 2018/19 financial year of R325.2 million, R34.8 million and R81.8 million respectively. It gets worse in 2019/20. Eastern Cape’s basic education budget will drop by R776,969; Free State by R193,605; KZN by R5,192; Mpumulanga by R311,2423; and North West by R248,321 excluding Sports Development as its not part of the approved Provincial Education Budget.

If you want to read more, here are the programmes that will be affected by the budget cuts, per province

EASTERN CAPE

  1. Administration: R353 million (2018/19), R337.5 million (2019/20) and R139 million (2020/21);
  2. Public Ordinary Schools: R67.5 million (2018/19), R366.7 million (2019/20) and R220.5 million (2020/21);
  • Infrastructure Development: R15.1 million (2018/19), R184.4 million (2019/20) and R118.4 million (2020/21); and
  1. Examination and Education Related Services: R18 million (2018/19), R30.3 million (2019/20) and R1.5 million (2020/21).

 FREE STATE

  1. Administration: R768 thousands (2018/19) and R18.7 million (2019/20);
  2. Public Ordinary Schools: R108.5 million (2018/19) and R61.4 million (2019/20);
  • Early Childhood Development: R12.4 million (2018/19), R41.3 million (2019/20) and R40.5 million (2020/21);
  1. Infrastructure Development: R88.7 million (2019/20) and R55.6 million (2020/21); and
  2. Examination and Education Related Services: R5.1 million (2019/20) and R14.8 million (2020/21).

KWAZULU-NATAL

Public Ordinary Schools: R272 million (2018/19) and R299.2 million (2019/20); and

  1. Infrastructure Development: R18 million (2018/19), R283.4 million (2019/20) and R198.5 million (2020/21).

MPUMALANGA

  1. Public Ordinary Schools: R60.3 million (2018/19) and R86.3 million (2019/20);
  2. Infrastructure Development: R550. 5 million (2019/20) and R472. 5 million (2020/21); and
  • Examination and Education Related Services: R83.8 million (2018/19), R95.9 million (2019/20) and R109.7 million (2020/21).

NORTH WEST

  1. Administration: R18.7 million (2018/19), R23 million (2019/20) and R 36.8 million (2020/21);
  2. Public Ordinary Schools: R94.8 million (2018/19) and R82.6 million (2019/20);
  • Early Childhood Development: R9.5 million (2019/20);
  1. Infrastructure Development: R119.1 million (2019/20) and R76.5 million (2020/21); and
  2. Examination and Education Related Services: R32.8 million (2018/19), R39.3 million (2019/20) and R41.6 million (2020/21).

 Did you really expect an answer to this one?

B Masango (DA) asked the Minister of State Security how much was budgeted for and how much spent on his private office, and what did his employees earn?

Reply

Well, wouldn’t you like to know? But you can’t. “Information relating to the financial and employment details of employees of the State Security Agency (SSA) forms part of the broader operational strategy and therefore remains classified and privileged.”

Don’t convert this to rands

Michael Waters (DA) asked the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation what is the monthly rental of South Africa’s High Commission and Consulates in the United Kingdom.

Reply

We taxpayers pay a monthly rental for South Africa House of £1,560.00. South Africa House is composed of six floors above ground and three floors below ground. Oh, and for the Consulate at 15 Whitehall we pay £64,220.89. This is for the Department of Home Affairs Offices. It’s four floors in all.

Money well spent in belt-tightening times

N R Mashabela (EFF) asked the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation what role, if any, does South Africa continue to play in fighting for the sovereignty and freedom of Western Sahara?

Reply

“South Africa pursues a pan Africanist foreign policy, which amongst others seeks to promote the decolonisation of the African Continent. To this end, since 2004 South Africa recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a full member of the African Union (AU). South Africa has been consistent in her support for the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and independence. South Africa’s support is consistent with the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Decolonization … emphasized the inalienable right of the indigenous people of the Western Sahara to total independence … South Africa further supports the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.”

Reply

In short, we spend R10 million in humanitarian aid to assist in the provision of emergency shelter, nutrition, medical care, child protection and education in the Western Sahara refugee camps located in south-west Algeria as well as an annual R1 771 000.00 for technical support to the SADR Embassy in Pretoria. In addition, South Africa is to sponsor an SADC solidarity conference on Western Sahara during the course of this year.

Are there really still sex offenders teaching in our school? We don’t know

Ian Ollis (DA) again asked the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services how many offenders are listed in the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) in 2018.

Reply

From 1 January 2018 to 27 March 2018, there were 487 convictions recorded in the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO), bringing the total number of convictions recorded in the NRSO to 28,670.

“Should any provincial education department wish to ascertain whether or not the name of any teacher appear in the NRSO, it must apply in writing to the Registrar of the National Register for Sex Offenders for the prescribed certificate.”

PG G Moteka (EFF) asked the Minister of Labour about jobs created under the Expanded Public Works Programme. How many are there and are they paid above a poverty wage, (or are they still being paid R 11 an hour)?

Reply

The Minister of Labour replied “The Expanded Public Works Programme is a programme that falls under the Department of Public Works’ remit therefore I would not be qualified to respond to this question.”

That could have been embarrassing for the Minister of Labour.

Here’s an interesting one

The Leader of the Opposition asked the President of the Republic what is his current salary and what does it cost the State to employ him as President of the Republic? He also asked whether the President intends to reject a proposed salary increase for the 2018-19 financial year.

Reply

“The salary of the President of the Republic is determined by a motion of the National Assembly. The current salary of the President is reflected in the Government Gazette no. 41211 of 27 October 2017.”

Reply

The answer therefore is at this time we don’t know what the President earns. The Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, an independent commission established to make recommendations concerning the salaries, allowances and benefits of defined office-bearers, has not made any proposals with respect to the 2018-19 financial year. “The question is therefore premature.”

The internet is full of guestimates though, varying from R2.8m to R3.6m a year. According to the Government Gazette last year President Ramaphosa earned R2 989 845 per year.

Last modified on Monday, 23 April 2018 20:58

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