Oral replies to questions by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in the National Assembly
29 February 2012
1. Mrs W Ngwenya (ANC) to ask the Deputy President:
With the President's reference, in his state of the nation address on 9 February 2012, to infrastructure development as a means of job creation, (a) which departments have delayed construction projects and (b) what measures have been put in place to deal with these delays? NO349E
One of the areas in which we have not made much progress as a country, has been in the integration and coordination of infrastructure projects. While good progress has been made in improving the management of infrastructure development at national and provincial levels, much remains to be done in this regard.
While we have examples of world class infrastructure such as in the 2010 FIFA World Cup delivered on time, there have been many other smaller and less complex projects that have suffered long delays. These delays are often not caused by individual departments but are usually as a result of the complexities of coordination and compliance with relevant regulations.
To address these legal and regulatory hurdles and other important infrastructure issues, the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission was established in September 2011, headed by the President, bringing key Ministers, Premiers and Mayors into a forum that focuses on infrastructure coordination, making infrastructure decisions and scrutinising delivery progress.
The work of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission thus far has concentrated on plans for future projects and infrastructure initiatives from a large number of authorities such as state-owned enterprises, national, provincial and local government departments. These have been clustered, sequenced and prioritised into strategic integrated projects that together unlock the economic development of South Africa and maximise the returns on our infrastructure investment. A number of these were announced by the President in the State of the Nation Address earlier this month.
The three spheres of government and public entities have different and, in many cases, independent responsibilities on infrastructure as well as different funding sources, ranging from government grants and allocations to user revenues, borrowings and private partnerships. Public sector infrastructure projects vary in size and duration and there are thousands of active projects at any given point in time, with older ones being completed and new ones starting all the time.
Each entity, municipality and provincial or national department entering into infrastructure contracts, have their own systems to manage projects and there is no common or central information system or database that regularly and comprehensively captures the changing status and progress of each of the infrastructure projects across the country. The idea of such a central system has been mooted, and Cabinet took a decision to institute a comprehensive project register which will collect and update project information on a quarterly basis.
This new tool that is being developed will be able to tell us the status of each infrastructure project under construction. It is envisaged that this information will be available to Parliament and the public.
The Minister of Finance in the Budget Speech also announced steps in this regard, in particular that special attention will be given to the procurement processes for infrastructure, technical assistance through the Infrastructure Delivery Improvement Programme, adherence to the Construction Industry Development Board standards on infrastructure delivery management, and the establishment of a municipal infrastructure agency.
Beyond the Construction Industry Development Board project register and National Treasury infrastructure expenditure monitoring, which will scrutinise projects, special focus will be placed on the progress of the Strategic Integrated Projects by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.
I thank you
2. The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the Deputy President:
(1) Whether Cabinet intends to (a) approve amendments to the Labour Relations Act, Act 66 of 1995, with a view to ensuring flexibility in wage negotiations, (b) ensure greater competition in the labour market and (c) meet the demand for skills in the labour market; if not, why not, in each case; if so, what are the relevant details in each case;
(2) whether he has taken any steps to ensure that economic growth led by the private sector is made a priority; if not, why not; if so, (a) what are the relevant details and (b) how will the Short-term Job Creation Commission's approach to job creation be focused in light of the increase of 107 000 in the number of unemployed South Africans during the course of 2011? NO355E
Cabinet will consider amendments to the Labour Relations Act in the next few months and I am not in a position to speculate on what Cabinet may decide on the matter. It is, however, pertinent to point out the following to the Honourable Leader of the Opposition:
The Labour Relations Act provides a legal framework for promoting and facilitating collective bargaining at the workplace and at sectoral level. Negotiations are by nature flexible and often result in both parties making compromises from their original positions.
The policies of the current government are to promote job creation and to protect vulnerable workers. The current legislation is flexible enough to allow for competition in the labour market.
As the Honourable Member will be aware, the Minister of Higher Education and Training recently published a Green Paper on Post-School Further Education and Training. The conclusion of the Green paper process will undoubtedly have major implications for our labour market, as it will accelerate all efforts to build a capable labour force.
With regard to economic growth, our approach is that indeed the private sector plays a major role but there is also a role for government which is mainly to create an enabling environment for growth. However and perhaps more importantly, we should not lose sight of the fact that economic growth must go hand in hand with job creation and generate the necessary revenue that enables government to pursue progressive developmental policies.
The massive infrastructure investment that was announced by the President during the State of the Nation Address and further elaborated by the Minister of Finance during the Budget Speech is one of the initiatives that will contribute to the creation of an environment that enables growth.
In addition to infrastructure investment we are implementing measures to diversify exports, reduce the cost of doing business in South Africa, reduce constraints to growth in various sectors as well as to promote more efficient production systems and entrepreneurship and innovation. We also undertake, on a continuous basis, regulatory reform to improve competitiveness.
While it is true that the number of unemployed people rose by 107 000 last year, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey released earlier this month informs us that 365 000 people were able to get new jobs. Our main focus is to ensure that economic growth accelerates, and that we create more jobs, mainly in the private sector.
We were able to reduce the number of people unemployed in the years before the recession began, and we aim to return to that level of performance and even exceed it in the years to come. In the meantime we are also providing short-term employment and various forms of social support for those not able to find jobs.
In this regard, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Anti-Poverty and Job Creation has identified 6 programmes for intensification and these are:
1. The Expanded Public Works Programme
2. The Community Works Programme
3. The development of small enterprises and cooperatives
4. The Jobs Fund
5. Vocational Training, and
6. The War on Poverty Campaign
Our approach, as ably articulated in the New Growth Path, is that while investments in various initiatives take root, the economy and South Africans need a stronger short-term employment boost.
The advantage with the Community Works Program is that it has proven its ability to expand rapidly and flexibly while the strengthening of community structures provides a platform for other programs.
The Inter Ministerial Committee is taking special interest in the work of supporting small enterprises and the development of cooperatives, given the immediate livelihood and job creation potential of these activities. Finally, the Expanded Public Works Program is being strengthened and funding has been allocated for new projects.
I thank you
3. Mr L S Ngonyama (Cope) to ask the Deputy President:
Whether the Government intends to change the tender system; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details? NO351E
The current tender system applied by government is in line with the prescripts of Section 217 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, which provides that contracting for goods or services must be done in accordance with a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.
The acquisition of goods and services is encompassed in the supply chain management processes which form an integral part of governments financial management system.
This approach gives effect to the letter and spirit of both the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act, the objectives of which are to secure sound financial management and combat fraud and corruption.
The Minister of Finance during the Budget Speech announced the following initiatives that will be implemented by the National Treasury to improve the procurement capability within government:
Eliminating fragmentation in the system and strengthening the national procurement structure and processes;
Appointing a Chief Procurement Officer who will have overall responsibility for monitoring procurement across government;
Reviewing the competencies and capabilities required to perform the procurement function and there will be strict vetting of all supply chain officials;
Developing a national price reference system to detect deviations from acceptable prices;
Strengthening the tax clearance system to ensure that those who have defrauded the state cannot do business with the state;
Undertaking a joint review, with the Minister of Public Works, of the validity and cost effectiveness of all government property leases; and
Improve the ability of departments to set the specifications for tenders.
The Minister of Finance will provide details regarding the implementation of these measures.
I thank you
4. Mr L N Diale (ANC) to ask the Deputy President:
What is the key responsibility of the executive, legislative and judicial arms of state in leading transformation to achieve the vision of a united, democratic, nonracial, nonsexist and just society? NO357E
All three arms of the state the executive, parliament and the judiciary derive their authority and function from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
The Preamble categorically states that our Constitution, which is the supreme law of the Republic, is meant to:
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundation for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people ...;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
In its founding provisions, the Constitution, further states that:
The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values:
(a) Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.
(b) Non-racialism and non-sexism.
(c) Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law and
(d) Universal adult suffrage ...
It is quite clear from this that the transformation of South African society is not only a political ideal that is pursued by individuals and organisations, but is a constitutional injunction for each and every one of us inside and outside of this august House. This is in fact what the liberation struggle was all about, and transformation remains our guiding principle in our quest to build a united and prosperous society.
Failure by any of the three arms of the state to pursue the noble goal of transforming our society into a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, equal and just society would simply be against the letter and spirit of our Constitution.
The bottom line is this: It is the shared responsibility of all three arms of the state to work tirelessly for the advancement of the political, social and economic rights of all our people, as enshrined in our Constitution.
These include, but are not limited to:
the right to equality;
the right to human dignity;
the right to freedom of association;
the right to vote and be voted for;
the right to freedom of movement;
the right to fair labour practices;
the right to live in an environment that is not harmful to ones health and well-being;
the right to property and land;
the right to adequate housing;
the right to health care services, food, water and social security;
the right to basic and further education; and
the right to use a language and participate in a cultural life of ones choice.
Section 27(2) of the Constitution states:
The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights.
It is in the realisation of these rights that true transformation will be achieved in our country.
I thank you