COSATU welcomes the tabling of budgets for the historic fifth administration of the Free State Provincial Government. We hereby make the following comments in relation to specific departments.
The reality of a shrinking purse needs to be taken seriously the impact of unemployment and poverty should also be mitigated by allocation to social services to push back the frontiers of poverty. Allocation to projects that have the potential to grow our economy and create jobs should also be prioritised. We appreciate the fact that the province managed to exceed the own revenue target by R43 million and would like to urge the treasury that lsquoeven in excellence there is still room for improvement’.
We welcome the interventions and support provided to the Health Department though we still hold the view that the situation should have been identified by treasury before it reached the crises levels and timeous intervention should have averted the situation. In future we would expect the Treasury to be able to read the signs and issue a warning. We should not experience similar situation again in future where our members as people rendering the services bore the brunt of angry patients and their escorts due to shortage of staff and consumables in hospitals and clinics.
Department of the Premier
Welcome the notion of driving the agenda of Radical Economic transformation as adopted by the 52nd National Conference of the ANC. We are encouraged by the words of the Premier in the SOPA when he indicated that the ANC is the only true economic freedom fighting organization.
We welcome the move to improve service delivery by Public Servants through training and the initiative by the FSTDI and the PSETA is noted. We have mentioned previously during our Public Service Ethos Campaign that there is a need to heighten the consciousness of the civil servants about the responsibilities when serving the public. We welcome the initiative and call on the premier to prepare for a mass and quality roll out of this program once the pilot has been completed and the lessons learned have incorporated.
We welcome the establishment of IT hubs in Kestel and Cornelia, this is a very important step in the right direction towards rural development.
We welcome the de-registration of 692 businesses belonging to Public Servants from the Government database and effectively barred the officials from doing business with the state. We welcome this move as it had been identified as a sore point in tackling temptation to fiddle with internal processes leading to corruption.
Planning Commission and the Monitoring and Evaluation units should receive urgent attention to enable the Premier to do his work of oversight in Departments more effectively. There should also be clear warning signs when a specific Department is facing danger. The signs would make sure that the Premier is aware of problems before they happen and prevent situations like the Health.
We welcome the support that is pledged to support the women’s cooperatives to be favoured in providing uniform for needy children.
We urge the premier to focus on processes that would improve cohesion within our societies such that there should be open and meaningful communication between the societies and the government.
Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation
We welcome the notion of improving patriotism and cohesion within our society by promoting the constitutional values, national symbols and the national anthem. We welcome the clear cooperation between this Department and that of Education as well as community organizations like churches. We pledge our support as the Federation to this program and extend an invitation to the department to engage us on possibilities to deepen the patriotism to our country and to preserve the national symbols.
We welcome the idea of creating a film studio in Free State we propose that the establishment of the Free State TV should be prioritised such that the very film studio should then have an immediate local market. Developing a studio in Welkom is welcome as a strategic move from centralising facilities in the capital city and forcing economic migration. The tertiary institutions in Welkom should be approached to move with speed to begin andor enhance programs on media and visualfine arts such that supply of skilled labour is guaranteed.
We welcome the move to explore the talent of our youth and communities by creating platforms for them to excel in sports and creative arts activities is welcome. This move syncs well with the economic activities of the Free State as a tourist destination. Availability, resourcefulness and accessibility of libraries and archives will enhance these activities in that artists would be able to research and be more creative. More cooperation is required here with the relevant department.
Department of Police, Roads and Transport
We welcome the progress on dealing with gangsters in the province however aocacy and education is required from Crime Prevention units to make sure that the youth does not even think about belonging to gangs. Cooperation with Department of Sport arts and Culture would be beneficial in this regard. We welcome the steps taken against corrupt officials in both traffic and the police and we remain true to a principle of fighting corruption wherever it may rear its ugly head. We hereby call on the Department to more to dissuade acts of crime and corruption on officials who should uphold the law.
We welcome the progress made in improving the state of our roads in the Province. We are however not satisfied with the few details provided on the rail revitalization and especially to the effect that can carry commuters between Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo and Bloemfontein.
There is a need to deal with the revenue collection in the Department and the notion of paying traffic fines and following up on defaulters needs attention. We believe that this would go a long way in encouraging responsible road use.
Department of Education
We welcome the theme lsquoRaising the bar, closing the gap and supporting learners in all grades’ and believe that such would go a long in heeding to our call of ensuring quality education at all levels not only focusing on Grade 12 results.
We welcome the fulltime employment of temporary educators as permanent thereby bringing about job security which would allow educators to focus on their work and do their best.
We welcome the initiative to bolster the ECD as it has been proven that it would enhance the results throughout the schooling years of the learners. We would closely monitor the full implementation of Grade R across all the schools.
We welcome the role played by the department to attract the attention and interest of the parents to the education of their children and have witnessed the improved attendance of the parents meetings where the department engaged the parents. We urge the community to take interest in the education of our children and to participate in the structures which seeks to improve such.
We welcome the lsquoChild Find Campaign’ and we will be urging our members to participate in this campaign as it has long term economic and moral benefits for our country.
Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
We welcome the work done in the past by the department and would like to commend the specific decision of correcting the shoddy work done with some houses resulting in low quality houses for our people.
We welcome the process of eradicating the two roomed old municipal houses with bigger and better houses which would restore the dignity of our people.
The process on the implementation of Local Government Regulations on the appointment of Senior Managers at Municipal Administration level should be fast tracked to create a level of accountability by this cohort of public servants. As COSATU we are disturbed by the apparent lack of consequence of poor performance for some senior managers at this level. We need to see speeding up of service delivery, there should be commensurate consequences for the lack of or poor performance.
We expected a clear program to deal with the gap market. We urge the Department to partner with the Department of Economic Affairs through Free State Development Corporation to come up with a plan on housing for the gap market. As COSATU we have clear proposals on how the process can be started and we would be approaching the Department to make a presentation to that effect.
There is a need to capacitate the Municipalities to plan for human settlements and not following the communities who have settled in informal settlements only to plan later. This notion should enable municipalities to anticipate the housing need and plan for it in line with the national human settlement policy even before it happens. This is crucial in order to minimize confrontation between municipalities and the communities.
Department of Health
We realize that the budget vote was made amid the cloud of negative publicity across the province and the morale of health care workers which could be characterised as being at its lowest at this point in time. We have a choice of whether to condemn the Department or to offer our hand to Department and walk with it out of the crises it is currently in. On making a decision we realized that the multitudes of our members livelihood depends on the success of this department, as a result we took a conscious decision to condemn the wrong things which have happened and work with the department to turn the situation around. We have been involved in discussions with the Department on how to tackle the situation and are encouraged by the interest which has been shown by the Premier in addressing the issues in health.
We welcome the appointment of the DDG NHI Project Management however we would like to reiterate our warning to the department that NHI should be the mainstream program and should not be treated as a separate program from health care thereby requiring a specific manager(s). We further caution the department to desist from increasing the top heaviness of the structure whilst the services at patient service points continue to suffer due to shortage of staff, which is rooted in funding!
We are not happy with the continuation of the services of Buthelezi ambulances for various reasons. Firstly the department should bolster the EMS service to render 100% health services, Secondly this contract has a throttle effect on hospitals in that they have to pay for services which they did not budget for, Thirdly the fact that Buthelezi ambulances takes precedence for payment even over and above paying for patient food and buying consumables creates a serious concern our concern. Fourthly Buthelezi ambulances is on record for gross labour right violations where at some point their employees deployed to Bongani were not paid for more than four months and some are taken up a volunteers. There may have been positive effects brought about by Buthelezi but in our opinion the negative effects far outweigh the positives therefore the continuation of the contract is not justifiable in our opinion. We call for the immediate termination of this contract!
Department of Public Works and Infrastructure
We welcome the notion of doing away with the utilization of consultants where internal capacity is available in the short term but moving towards creating internal capacity to render services to our people.
We welcome the move to employ the technical staff who have benefited from the state bursary scheme and have qualified. We welcome the notion of continuing and even taking to the higher level the responsibility to maintain the state resources.
We welcome the notion of making an audit of the land and state assets in the province such that the province knows exactly what is and should be on the asset register.
The building of some key infrastructure projects through the process of massification is welcome as it will create skills amongst the community members.
We welcome the plan to ensure that the accounts of the client departments are paid on time and correctly especially the Municipal utilities. We believe that this would go a long way in increasing the financial abilities of the affected municipalities to provide better services to their respective communities.
We welcome the property management plan and wish to urge the MEC to prioritize this process such that the Department can cut its losses due to state property laying idle and some of it being vandalised.
Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs amp Small Business Development
We welcome the speech and its contents. We acknowledge that the trajectory taken by the department seems to be in line with the FSGDS, we however would like to put forward some issues for consideration.
The role of the FDC should be reviewed, as much as we agree that there are assets of FDC which the Corporation would better off without them but we do not agree with the wholesale of assets whereby all the assets would be alienated including the lsquooose that lays the golden egg’. FDC should be refocused to go into the gap market and address the housing challenges of the workers who are the main engines of our economy and yet they do not have a place to sleep at night! The privates sector would not go into this sector as it is not lucrative.
We welcome the revitalization of the textile factories in the Free State and urge the department to urge other departments in line with the SOPA 2014 to support the local industries through their procurement practices beyond adoption of policies to that effect. In revitalizing tourism we need to start something about tourism in Matjhabeng in line
Department of Agriculture
We welcome the campaign that is intended to bolster the province’s passion to agriculture by encouraging gardening in our own homes. We welcome the support by the Department of The Bill on The Regulations of Land Holdings as proposed by the Department of Rural Development under the leadership of Minister Nkwinti.
We welcome the notion of taking the Free State back to its rightful position of being the lsquofood basket’ of the country by bolstering and increasing our agricultural activities including going into new technological ventures like fish farming in a very dry Free State area like Xhariep district.
This can be achieved though revitalization of Glen College as the Tertiary institution of choice in the Free State and it be placed at the technological cutting edge in the light of the current harsh conditions brought about by global warming and climate change.
Technological aancement of agriculture would go a long way in making Agriculture attractive to the youth who are tomorrow’s nation.
We are impressed with the speeches and the budgets allocated and we call upon all the departments to take active steps to strengthen monitoring and evaluation of the programs within the budgets votes. We wish the Provincial Government well in that when it does well our people, workers and the country stands to benefit.
Issued by COSATU Free State
Source : Congress of South African Trade Unions