State pulls out of Limpopo

2013-08-11 14:00

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Administrative team reports provincial government is ready to take over again, but there are still ‘serious issues’.

Cabinet believes Limpopo’s government is ready to stand on its own again – but the man who headed the administration says the province is still “overwhelmed” by serious systemic issues.

City Press has learnt that Cabinet this week received a report from the team appointed to administer the province two and a half years ago, which says Limpopo is out of the red.

Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane said Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting received a report from the team that has in effect been running the province in terms of section 100(b) of the Constitution since December 2011.

Chabane said the team and Limpopo’s leadership would soon hold a meeting to discuss “a way of handling the remaining issues”.

Chief administrator Monde Tom cautioned that while a lot of work had been done, some serious systemic problems remained, particularly around procurement and the provision of infrastructure.

“The spending on infrastructure is low. The delivery of road infrastructure is not working well. Their roads agency has major challenges.

“Public Works doesn’t have (enough) capacity. They need to build technical know-how. Supply chain and the provision of major services is also a problem. The province is overwhelmed by these,” Tom said.

Another of the tasks remaining is holding to account the provincial government officials whose misconduct – and criminal actions – led to Limpopo’s financial collapse.

President Jacob Zuma’s government took over the administration of half the provincial government after Limpopo overspent on its bank overdraft by R750?million and asked National Treasury for an extra R1?billion to pay its bills in 2011.

At the time, then premier Cassel Mathale and his allies dismissed the intervention as a political move.

Cabinet’s move to cut the apron strings will give newly appointed premier Stanley Mathabatha much more control of his government.

Mathabatha has taken the reins at a time when the administrative team’s report reveals that “the cash status of the province is (now) out of the red”, said Chabane.

The administrators may be packing their bags soon, but Limpopo will remain firmly on their radar.

“By the time the national government leaves, we need to ensure there are systems in place to sustain the progress made,” said Chabane.

“Even if Limpopo is out of the woods, national government will (still) provide further assistance.

“Section 100 remains until the discussion with the province has taken place.” Tom said the interministerial committee that ran the administration would pay Mathabatha and his executive team a visit “soon” to discuss both the remaining issues and an exit strategy.

He added that Cabinet would have the final say on this strategy and the date of the administrators’ withdrawal.

A public works department source, who declined to be named, said the intervention team could have been withdrawn much earlier.

“Pretoria didn’t want to hand the administration back to Cassel Mathale, who screwed it up in the first place.”

Section 100(b) allows for the complete takeover of provincial departments’ powers.

The source said national government would remove this in three months’ time and replace it with a more limited intervention for a further three months.

The source said there was a feeling that the team had achieved much of what it had set out to do when it was sent to Limpopo in December 2011.

The removal of the team, said the source, was also Zuma’s way of telling Mathabatha he has faith in him and trusts him.

On Wednesday, Mathabatha announced that the administrators had succeeded in rescuing the five departments that had been placed under administration.

Another source in the department of health, which works closely with the administrators, confirmed the intervention team was preparing to hand over to the provincial government.

In the department of health, the source said, there had been many improvements.

“But we still need to monitor the implementation of systems. They still need our support. We can’t just leave them to their own devices.

“Patient billing, procurement and record management are the biggest outstanding matters. We are far from getting these right.”

The biggest achievements in the department of health, the source said, were:

»?Sorting out the asset register in all clinics, district and provincial hospitals. “We now know what facilities and assets we have.”;

»?The establishment of a checklist to be complied with before service providers are paid; and

»?Ensuring that patients at hospitals have enough food.

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