Speech by Lechesa Tsenoli on the Department of Provincial and Local Govt Budget Vote

05 June 2007

None of us is as smart as all of us!

This statement captures the spirit with which i would like to approach todays budget vote. The African National Congress. Fully supports this vote on the grounds that it is build on solid recognition of what needs to be done.it speaks directly to the work of strengthening governance at the provincial and local government. It also addresses the tasks of building a developmental state!.

The account we give today, benefitted a lot from the cooperation of the ministry and department , including that of public entities that report to the department as well as by provincial and local government political and administrative officials who received and engaged us during our oversight work in provinces and municipalities.

It also benefited from the often robust intellectual, political engagement with organisations in civil society that has an enthusiastic interest in the work of government at the local sphere where communities live, where they also work!

Chairperson the resources allocated to the work of this department are crucial because they oil a critical part of the government, the fulcrom where it all revolves. The success or failure of this department unlike others, have major repercussions on all our systems of government.

The ministry and department oversees and participates in the management of intergovernmental relations, intergovernmental fiscal relations, with a view to ensuring democratic governance and effective service delivery to a rightly demanding citizenry!

Our support for the budget vote is therefore to declare our interest in the objectives, to see government effectively engaging the public with confidence to meet the promises of a better life.

The capacity of government, of the state to play this role is therefore critical and to the extent that this ministry and department work effectively together with others in and out of government has been our interest and committee members will reflect on this matter.

Chairperson, public protests has been reported as emerging from poor service delivery. Where this has been found to be indeed so, coinsides with observations of weaknesses in governance, in poor citizen engagement, in poor communication and conflict management, in weak administration and leadership.

This in turn has often, as has been observed before, been the result of weak and problematic deployment and employment practices in these municipalities. This practice was strongly, and rightly so, criticised by mr amos masondo the newly reelected chairperson of salga during salga's members assembly.

In addition, perhaps we must also add that those are also the result of weak and inadequate provincial and national support. In other words, for us when asgisa demands building state capacity, we would not undertand if resolving these issues does not become the focus of support for municipalities from provincial and national government.

Politics and contestations are of course also at the heart of exploiting genuine peoples grievances and these too must find appropriate management, afterall, these are the risks worth taking by choosing to be a democracy. What we must comdemn however, without reservation, is the use of violence, targetting of councillors and others, destruction of limb and proparty, in persuit of political goals.

We have to assess the work of dplg by asking whether it succeeds in working with provinces to help local government achieve its vision as contained in the white paper on local government; a government committed to working with people and citizens to find sustainable solutions to their problems, practically, an echo of the freedom charter, its process of formulation and its central call for people to grant legitimacy to what must be done.

It is for this reason that the investigation or assessment by dplg into provincial capacity is important. Enquiring into the ability, capacity of provincial premiers offices to promote intergovernmental relations, coordinate implementation of cross-cutting issues. This work is important to acertain support for municipalities to achieve that objective.

Any hands-on support such as is envisaged in the five year strategic agenda for local government require also the kind of work the department is doing to check whether provinces have the wherewithall to provide support to municipalities.

Resources must be mobilised, however, to help provinces themselves to play their roles effectively. I am sure they would argue they are not short on ideas but certainly short on cash!

The department itself needs capacity to carry out its support role effectively and the high turn over of official in the department does not help - whatever the reason for such turnover. The improvements, overall, in the department are however welcomed. These include the emerging importance given to monitoring and evaluation, a crucial way of working that helps learn from practice but also take quick remedial steps - such as is illustrated by project consolidate.

An inclusive approach to monitoring and evaluation is, however, important, so that none of the affected stakeholders feels unfairly excluded from such an important process. An internal evaluation is so much more enriched especially when it is complemented by external evaluation.

None of us is as smart as all of us!

The south african institute of engineering went outside their ranks to find a pithy observation for supporting the need for educating more engineers in our country. In the conclusion of a study published in 2005 called 'numbers and needs' they sited prof harry seftel, retired professor of medicine and chief physician at the hillbrow hospital as having written that;

' …during the first half of the 20th century, the life span doubled in the western world. The doubling had little to do with the medical profession. The striking increase was mostly due to engineers whose technology produced a vast improvement in environmental and social hygiene. This included the provision of clean air and water, sanitation and water-born sewerage, housing, electricity, roads and transport…'

It was in the same study that they revealed the absence of engineering, technical and artisan capacity in 79 munipalities. Clearly the impact professor seftel spoke about would not see the light of day if it wasn't for the intervention of both project consolidate and siyenza manje in the short term to lay the foundation for improvements in the quality of life of residents!

The work of the local government seta is important in this regard. It requires the cooperation of all role players if it is to continue its acknowledged best perforformance among the setas. But, importantly, it is the broader national human resource development strategy into which schools and tertiary institutions fit, that bigger and better contributions must also come the capacity of the state deserve critical and urgent attention.

It is for this reason that we argue for capacity building to be embedded into integrated development plans. This so that progresses can be seen to budgeted for, relevant and in many ways measurable. Why comrade minister must we continue to call them integrated development plans if they donot contain capacity building for their effective implementations?

Chairperson, the department of provincial and local government is too coy and shy, we would like to see you minister push a higher profile of the work you do in collaboration with provinces in support of municipalities, a more robust engagement with ministries and departments such trade and industry to play their role more energetically and enthusiastically to help build local economies as well as robust engagement with other departents such housing and social development on the dynamics of migration and urbanisation, to ask whether from a planning point of view housing and transport should not be decentralised to municipalities to fastrack and give impetus to the breaking new ground strategy - prioritising cities organised into the cities network.

We must minister, however, also emphasise that we have an obligation, talking about local economies, to actively mobilise support for sustainable livelihoods especially in rural and semi-rural and periurban areas. A lot of creativity and productivity is entrapped by lack of effective support in these areas. This work overlaps with the economic cluster that may feel seduced by big, high impact initiatives and ignore or give limited support to sustainable livelyhoods initiatives.

The national spacial development frame work must be seen to respond creatively to these matters rather than focus in a unidimentional manner on what may be concentrations of potential in largely bigger cornubations.