Gauteng Department of Education underspends by R1.3 billion in the 2019/20 financial year

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes with concern that the Gauteng Department of Education had underspent their budget by R1.3 billion in the 2019/20 financial year.

This information was revealed in the department’s 2019/20 annual report, indicating that the department had underspent across all its programmes.

Failure to spend R1 389 320 of the allocated budget has a huge impact on department’s performance, with the following targets not achieved:

Vacant posts at schools were not filled which will result in overcrowding of learners in classrooms;
· School furniture was not bought;

· Bursaries for teachers were not settled;

· Incomplete kitchens and gas installations, making it difficult to provide nutrition for learners;

· Property lease contracts were not concluded, resulting in unnecessary extensions;

· Information Communication Technology (ICT) projects were delayed and

· Development projects such as staff training were not rolled out.

The department had failed to spend its allocated budget which was approved before the inception of the national lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The DA is further worried that this current financial year will result in higher under expenditure due to schooling disruptions because of Covid-19.

The DA will therefore engage with the Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi to reprioritise the department’s expenditure plans to ensure proper budget allocation, focusing on school infrastructure in terms of building more schools and classrooms, launching more ICT projects, and ensure adequate teacher development. This will capacitate the department to meet the new learning and teaching demands under the difficult conditions of the pandemic.

The DA believes that the department has no room to underspend on its allocated budget considering the high demand to improve the quality of education and school infrastructure in Gauteng.

City Power causing chaos with new load-shedding schedule

City Power has left residents and businesses in the dark by making changes to the load-shedding schedule behind their backs. On 18 January they confirmed that they would stick to a 4-hour schedule as their infrastructure was too old to handle the 2-hour schedule which Eskom proposed, and today confirmed via Twitter that this was still the case.

It was only after DA Councillors pushed for a confirmation that City Power surprised us all with a press statement at 18:30 that announced the new 2-hour schedule. I’m happy if they’ve managed to miraculously protect the crumbling power grid from the effect of a 2-hour schedule, but we all know that you can’t correct a R60bn backlog overnight.

It’s important to us to have a reliable and well-planned schedule so that we can plan our lives around loadshedding properly. The last thing we need on top of load-shedding is for City Power to change their minds and make up new schedules without telling us. This means frustration and loss of business, which we can’t afford in the current economic depression.

Johannesburg residents deserve a City that puts their needs first and care about them. The DA stands for clear and consistent communication backed up by proper planning and investment in the basics which residents pay for.

Fire at Carletonville hospital destroys PPE and equipment worth R20 million

The Democratic Alliance is alarmed that a fire at the Carletonville Hospital yesterday morning destroyed medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth about R20 million.

According to local DA councillors Devin Nieuwenhuyzen and Carlos Rebelo, the fire started in a storeroom at the hospital.

Photographs of the fire are here and here.

The equipment that was destroyed was supposed to be for the AngloGold Ashanti hospital which is being readied to treat Covid-19 cases.

Police are at the scene as arson is suspected.

An independent investigation is needed to determine whether this fire was due to negligence or sabotage.

This is a severe loss, and accountability is needed for the lack of preventive measures that allowed it to occur.

Note: Cllr Nieuwenhuyzen can be contacted at Tel: 074 286 4226

#MakhuraNotFitToGovern: 28 months and still no report on the Bank of Lisbon fire fiasco

28 Months after the Bank of Lisbon fire fiasco, Premier David Makhura is yet to release the report on the criminal investigation into the matter.

There have been unnecessary delays in releasing this report despite the DA laying a charge against three Gauteng MECs and the heads of four provincial government departments for the neglectful actions that led to the death of three firefighters and numerous injuries suffered by others in the fire that broke out.

This is yet another reason why Premier Makhura is not fit to govern Gauteng.

The Premier clearly does not want to govern this province in a clear and transparent manner.

If there is nothing to hide, then the Premier must release the findings of the criminal investigation into the Bank of Lisbon fire. At the time of the Bank of Lisbon fire, then MEC Jacob Mamabolo indicated that the building was only 21% compliant.

The reason for lack of safety standards in Gauteng’s building assets is that the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) does not possess the skills nor resources to implement the legislation required to maintain the conditional integrity of the infrastructure.

Premier Makhura is well aware of this and in terms of his oversight role, he should have taken cognizance and proposed remedial action. Instead, he denies his own oversight responsibility, as he has done in the case of the Life Esidimeni deaths and the Gauteng PPE corruption scandal.

Who is running the show? With whom does the buck stop? The Premier’s lack of accountability and oversight has caused death and misery. It is time for him to go and hand the baton to someone who can be trusted by the people of Gauteng.

Gauteng’s Covid-19 figures are not credible

Accurate reporting of Covid-19 infections and recoveries is essential to track the course of the pandemic, but the Gauteng Health Department’s official figures are not credible.

According to the Department, there are currently 7 675 active infections, which is lower than the 11 185 cases reported in the last 10 days. This is simply not possible as it takes at least 10 days to be cleared for even a mild Covid-19 case.

It is also highly unlikely that 64% of active cases are hospitalised as it is reported that there are 4 875 Covid-19 cases in Gauteng hospitals.

There was a similar misreporting problem in November last year when the Department claimed there were only 1384 active cases, but there were 1781 Covid-19 patients in Gauteng hospitals according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Normally one would expect about 10-15% of Covid-19 cases to be in hospital, so the real figure of active infections in Gauteng is probably above 40 000 cases. This takes into account that many cases are asymptomatic or are not reported because they haven’t been tested.

Accurate figures are essential in tracking this epidemic and intervening speedily in emerging hotspots. They also assist the public in knowing in which areas they should take extra precautions.

The genuine decline in new infections in Gauteng is encouraging, but the severe under-reporting of active cases needs to be rectified.

We cannot afford to be complacent as there is a real risk of a resurgence of infections.

GDE incurred more than R1 billion on irregular expenditure in the 2019/20 financial year

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is concerned that the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has incurred R1 030 657 000 in irregular expenditure for the 2019/20 financial year.

This information was revealed in the department’s 2019/20 annual report.

According to the Auditor-General, effective steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure amounting to more than R1 billion. This irregular expenditure is as a result of non-compliance in respect of procurement and contract management.

The reports of more than R 431 million in irregular expenditure purported to be used to decontaminate schools last year clearly confirms that the department is disregarding the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Senior management have failed to adequately review and monitor compliance with the PFMA and treasury regulations. There are number of allegations of procurement irregularities, financial misconduct, fraud, and theft relating to prior years.

The DA has tabled written questions to the Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to establish the status of investigations into these allegations.

Lack of consequence management contributes to irregular expenditure. These irregular expenditure amounts are increasing on a yearly basis and this clearly indicates that the department is failing when it comes to good governance.

It is high time that both the head of department and chief financial officer should explain why the department has failed to take the necessary measures to avoid irregular expenditure arising from procurement processes.

DA calls on MEC Mosupyoe to urgently investigate theft of food for the homeless at Hillbrow homeless shelter

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has written to the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Morakane Mosupyoe requesting an urgent investigation into the allegations of food theft at the homeless shelter situated at number 3 Kotze Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

The DA has been reliably informed that the staff members at this shelter are stealing food meant for homeless people who are housed at this shelter.

It is alleged that on a daily basis, a large amount of food is packed into the vehicles of two of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) workers at the shelter and removed from the premises as soon as their shifts end.

The photos of the workers allegedly stealing food and loading it into their cars can be seen here  here, here and here

It is a disgrace that the workers are stealing from the poor homeless people who are dependent on this food to survive.

The beneficiaries are not receiving nutritious meals because of the alleged theft of the food by the workers at this shelter.

Furthermore, there are allegations that some of the homeless people housed at this shelter have also been victims of humiliating acts such as being forced to strip down for inspections by the workers without any explanation.

The female beneficiaries have also been victims of harassment and humiliating exercises during an alleged test of their alcohol levels.

It is also alleged that when the management of the shelter is confronted with complaints from the beneficiaries, the complainants are met with violent attacks from some kitchen workers who are also living at the shelter and assisting the staff with the loading of the food into their vehicles.

This shelter is one of the shelters selected by the Gauteng Department of Social Development to temporarily house homeless people during the national lockdown period as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This shelter is funded by the department and managed by SANCA which is in charge of the day-to-day management and the rendering of services which includes the feeding of all beneficiaries at the shelter.

Should it be found that the workers at this shelter are stealing from the poor homeless people they should face the consequences of their actions. The management of this shelter should be held accountable for their workers’ actions as well as the department for its lack of adequate monitoring of the services rendered by this shelter.

Stealing from the poor is a criminal offence hence the perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly.

#GautengInCrisis: Covid Infrastructure projects stumble from crisis to crisis

It is extremely concerning to note that despite numerous promises by the Gauteng Provincial Government that our health infrastructure will be upgraded to cope with the expected high number of Covid-19 cases in the province, these critical infrastructure projects have still not been completed almost a year after the country went into lockdown.

What has been shown once again is that the Departments of Infrastructure and Health are dysfunctional and cannot be relied upon. While we are still waiting for the completion of projects to ensure an additional 1575 High Care/ICU beds, the Health Department has announced that the 300 beds that were to have been provided at the Kopanong hospital will be delayed because the project has been stopped due to poor contractor performance.

There is a lack of clear information as to when construction will be completed. It is crystal clear that there is additionally a scarcity of medical staff to man the new beds, thus making them unnecessary in the short to mid-term. In light of this, the Department of Health is to decide how many of the ICU beds, if and when they come online, must be repurposed as general beds and where the medical staff will be found.

The fact that our health infrastructure is not ready and able to cope with the high numbers of Covid patients is worrying, given that the initial lockdown was implemented so that government could ensure that the necessary infrastructure is put in place so that our hospitals can deal with the large number of patients that were expected.

Furthermore, the DA will be submitting questions to the MEC for Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara to ascertain what measures are being put in place to ensure that the companies who were awarded the tenders to complete these critical infrastructure projects do so within the stipulated timeframe. In addition, we the DA would also like to know what action will be taken against contractors where work has stopped due to poor contractor performance. In the meantime, we wait while puerile management is the order of the day and people die from Covid.