Damage to North West departments could take 18 months to fix

Financial, governance and capacity challenges at various departments in the North West provincial government are so severe that national government interventions could take as long as 18 months to turn the situation around. 

This is according to Parliament support staff and researchers, who briefed the ad hoc committee on national government interventions in the North West Province on Tuesday afternoon. 

In May, five offices in the North West provincial government were placed under national government administration. This was done in terms of Section 100 (a) of the Constitution, while another five were placed under national executive administration in terms of Section 100 (b). 

Section 100 allows the national executive to intervene in the provincial sphere of government if it has been established that the provincial authority cannot fulfil its Constitutional obligations.

In May Supra Mahumapelo was compelled to step down as premier of the province. He was replaced by Job Mokgoro. 

As many as twelve reviews, forensic investigations and audits among the ten provincial government departments have either been proposed or are already underway.

The ad hoc committee’s content advisor, Tshepo Masoeu, reported on Tuesday that because the challenges in the ten provincial departments were so serious, it would be one to two years before these departments could completely run their own affairs again.

"All interventions to enhance and improve service delivery in the province will require sustained efforts over the next two years or so. This is evident in that when health interventions were assessed by the inter-ministerial task team, it was said that it could take 18 months," said Masoeu.

Masoeu told the committee of a litany of failings within departments, in a report that included submissions from the inter-ministerial task team intervening in the province, National Treasury and the office of the Auditor General.

The task team found that seven project management units in the office of the premier entered into illegal contracts.

The office of the Auditor General submitted that the Provincial Public Accounts committee failed to act to ensure that irregular expenditure was properly investigated.

After the provincial health department incurred R714m in irregular expenditure, R99.6m unauthorised and R77.3m fruitless and wasteful expenditure, the department said it would investigate contract irregularities, review its audit improvement plan and its procurement plan.

Masoeu said the inter-ministerial task team proposed a review of all existing delegations within the office of the premier. The task team also proposed that provincial government-owned entities should be reviewed and assessed for relevance.

Stake holders including unions, business structures, NGOs and ratepayers’ associations proposed the entire provincial department be placed under administration and that non-delivery of service providers as well as corruption be thoroughly investigated.

Committee chairperson Charel Jacobus De Beer said the report was helpful to the committee in its formulation of its final report into the matter. He said the ad hoc committee would use the report to "follow the money" and get to the bottom of spending, governance and delivery failures in the province.

The inter-ministerial will team brief the ad hoc committee on the latest developments in its intervention on August 16.

The ad hoc committee will conduct site visits to the province in September to monitor service delivery and continue to monitor interventions.

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