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Government to scale back intervention in North West by end of March as progress made

04 December 2020 - 08:21 By ANDISIWE MAKINANA
Co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

National government will scale back its intervention in the North West by the end of March.

Co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that, while challenges remained in that province, there has been sufficient progress. Because of this progress, the government is thinking of scaling back the section 100 (1) (b) interventions.

The national government put the North West government under administration in May 2018.

Dlamini-Zuma said when the cabinet took the decision to intervene in the North West, it was because of instability in the province from community level to a labour level, especially in the health department.

She said the decision was made after an assessment of each provincial department.

The constitution provides for the national intervention in provincial administration.

When a province cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the constitution or legislation, the national executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation, including issuing a directive to the provincial executive, describing the extent of the failure and stating any steps required to meet its obligations; and by assuming responsibility for the relevant obligation in that province to the extent necessary.

The intervention affects 11 provincial departments.

MPs heard that governance, financial management and audit results of different departments had improved since the national government intervention in May 2018.

Unqualified audits increased from four to seven, including the Office of the Premier.

The office of the premier has an unqualified audit, an important achievement to recognise indicating the improved controls in governance after four years of qualifications and declining audit results across the province,” said Jonathan Timm, co-ordinator of the secretariat for the interministerial task team on North West intervention. Dlamini-Zuma chairs the task team.

He said these were indicative of improved controls in governance, adding that the office was now providing leadership and playing its oversight role across the various departments.

The province also reported a decrease in annual irregular expenditure to R3.484bn from R4.72bn in 2018/19.

In a presentation to the NCOP on Thursday, Timm said they had noticed an improvement in the alignment of planning between provincial departments to improve on service delivery priorities.

The capacity for service delivery had also been built through the filling of key management positions and the moratorium on recruitment of staff was also lifted and fit-for-purpose departmental structures approved.

Wasteful and poorly managed outsourcing of contracts was terminated and officials were empowered to do the work they are paid for, he said.

Timm said functions that were previously centralised in the office of the premier have been transferred back to original departments.

Other achievements included:

* Ten-year maintenance and refurbishment plan for hospitals has been completed and key services have been restored.

* Medicine availability in health facilities has improved through an intensive effort to address the myriad challenges that have crippled the provincial medicine supply system.

* 109 road projects have been implemented through a provincial roads recovery plan. This has created 9,035 job opportunities.

* Improved financial management and oversight of school infrastructure projects implemented.

* Province recorded improvement of 5.7% in National Senior Certificate Exam results in 2019 and;

* Scholar transport contracts were set aside and preparation for new contracts is under way. This will result in significant savings.

To mitigate a regressing in some departments when the national government downscales or withdraws its intervention, the ministerial task team has proposed use of targeted directives which are provided for under Section 100 (1) (a) of the constitution.

There will also be close monitoring and support for departments so that there is no hard withdrawal but to manage the transition focusing on priority matters.

Instability at local government level remains a concern, which Timm said undermined service delivery in the province and needed to be addressed in close collaboration between the national and provincial departments of Cogta.

MPs were shocked to hear of a climate of hostility towards the intervention and campaigns to discredit and intimidate administrators, which Timm said had intensified as the intervention stayed longer.

He said political intervention had improved the situation, but it remained a threat.

A member of the North West provincial legislature, Aaron Motswana, who also chairs that legislature's Cogta portfolio committee, contested “many aspects” of the interministerial task team report.

“From where we are seated as the North West Provincial Legislature, we don't agree with the presentation on many aspects of what is reported here.

“I want to totally rebuke this idea that there has been hostility towards the intervention. It is not entirely true,” he said.

Motswana said there were administrators who refused to account to the legislature and would tell MPLs they don't account to them but account to the minister.

“The picture painted here is that there is hostility but in actual fact those administrators are hostile to the people of the North West that they are supposed to be serving,” he said.

He requested that the legislature be allowed to present its own report on how the intervention has affected the North West.