While we all have to accept that these are trying times and that business as usual has gone out the door, this should not be an excuse for mismanagement. Yet it appears that here in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) the Department of Social Development (DSD), under MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza has become a cash cow.
The DA regards everything about this Department’s budget as an ongoing concern. If we consider the DSD’s infamous lack of accountability, mismanagement of funds and maladministration over the years, then how can we be sure that funding that has been reallocated is indeed savings? And how can we be sure that these savings will be used to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society – a society that depends on services from this Department, as well as the local NPO’s and NGO’s funded through this Department?
To add to the DA’s concerns, the DSD is facing a financial penalty – because it has chosen to use conditional grant funding for expenditure outside of what this funding is allocated for. In this case, we would be interested to know from the MEC how she plans to deal with this matter as it will have a significant and damaging impact on the budget for the outer years. This is a very serious issue that requires urgent attention. Either the Department doesn’t know what they’re doing, or they are trying to cover something else up. It also seems that my parliamentary question in this regard has been misplaced, or answers stalled, as I’m still waiting for a reply.
Moving on to more recent shenanigans. As recently as Tuesday morning, a media report – where the DSD vehemently denied cutting NPO and NGO funding – made my blood boil. Yet reports from this very Department over the past few months have shown exactly that, with funding being cut and reallocated due to Covid-19. The DA is disinclined to trust anything that comes out of this Department given its track record where the left hand never knows what the right hand is doing.
DSD over the years has admitted to failing in monitoring and evaluating the funded NPO’s and NGO’s in the province. And so the DA’s question is – how can it be sure of who these organisations are in the first place? And how can it be sure, that when it did cut funding, that it was being done on the basis of facts and figures and not because it simply thumb-sucked figures? Without funding, these organisations cannot provide necessary services. To make matters worse, the DSD has also failed to provide an increase for this financial year to assist with their ever-increasing needs. This while expenses go up and they are still expected to provide services without falling short on their mandates.
It is also blatantly clear that the DSD did not come out strongly enough to deal with Covid-19 and the needs of the communities it is mandated to serve. In fact, the centralisation of food distribution is a prime example of this Department’s significant failure which has once again opened it up to alleged fraud and corruption.
If the recent food distribution saga is not an exemplary failure, then the DA is not sure what it. A total of R25million was paid to three service providers to provide a total of 176 908 food parcels during the months of July and August. Yet they only managed to deliver 1 025. It doesn’t help asking this Department to explain what is going on. They cannot even answer questions posed to them by SCOPA. It is impossible not to draw up our own assumptions and conclusions in this regard.
The MEC’s call for an investigation into the food parcel issue is too little too late. And while the investigation is being aimed at the service providers – which the DA agrees should be investigated – it is the Department’s officials who appointed these NPO’s in first place. In fact, it is officials from within the DSD who agreed to provide these NPO’s not just with R25million but also with trucks, forklifts, bakkies and free fuel to get the job done. Yet the MEC has said nothing about an investigation taking place within her own Department for its failure to actively monitor and evaluate these tenders over the past few months. The MEC is most certainly not the person who should be calling for an investigation. If Treasury had not alerted us to the issue last week, no-one would have been wiser, least of all MEC Khoza.
A Department such as Social Development should be the epitome of transparency, functionality and humility. Unfortunately, this is not the case in KZN. Given this Department’s dismal past and even more disgraceful present, one has to consider what needs to be done, so that this Department actually has a future.
The DA has deep reservations about this Adjustment Budget. We cannot trust that either the budget or the amended Annual Performance Plan have been thoroughly scrutinised. Nor can we ignore that it might be yet another wishy-washy, slap-dash attempt at pushing funding around to make it look as though the Department knows what it’s doing or that it cares for our communities.
The DA has little to no faith in the current MEC, who is in constant denial and uses officials as scapegoats, rather than taking responsibility. She has failed as the political head of this Department and the DA stands by what it has said before – that she must stand down, it is the least she can do for the people of our province. In the event that she does not do so, the MEC should be removed from her position and this Department must be placed under administration. A full investigation – not led by the MEC nor by the Premier but rather an independent body – must be called for, so that those who are rotten and lining their pockets are dealt with decisively.
There can be no more excuses Premier. If you are serious about fighting corruption and fraud, then you will heed the DA’s call today.