“Beyond the Zuma and Mbeki factions: The prospects for improved service delivery post-Polokwane”
Colm Allan has, for some time now, been stirring the pot and making public servants aware of the error of their ways.
As he became both well-known and highly effective as a watchdog over questionable government spending and fiscal mismanagement. In his current position as Director of the Centre for Social Accountability (CSA), which absorbed the PSAM, he and his colleagues continue to keep an eye on and draw attention to matters of accountability which might otherwise well escape scrutiny.
Addressing a RIBS Business forum on the topic of “Beyond the Zuma and Mbeki factions: The prospects for improved service delivery post-Polokwane” he did, however, stress that there were many positives which should be taken into account; “there are both positive and negative impacts”, he told his audience.
He remains concerned, however, by such topical matters as a perceived undermining of the independence of the judiciary and of the rule of law. “Beware too”, he warns, “of the impact of the weakening of parliamentary independence as evidenced by widespread conflicts of interests on the part of participants.” He is also wary of the emergence of opportunist and career leaders and the current attempt to “convert popular discontent with poor delivery into support for Jacob Zuma.”
Allan discussed the two different approaches (of the two factions) to the State, poverty, economic development and service delivery and then addressed their implications in the context of the Eastern Cape. In many instances, our province is found wanting.
Looking within the provincial departments of Health, Education, Social Development and Housing, he focused on the implementation of five accountability processes: Planning and resource allocation, Expenditure management, Performance Management, Public Integrity management and Oversight.
In not one of the four departments’ strategic plans or budgets, he found, was there any accurate analysis of citizens’ needs in the most obvious areas of quantifying the demand for housing and access to clinics, to name but two. No planning for 2007 and 2008 by the four departments was influenced at all by the results of a Rapid Analysis Survey commissioned in 2005, covering some 12 000 households. “In fact” Allan recalls, “the CSA itself only obtained the results of that survey after two years’ litigation under the Freedom of Information legislation”. And, in the context of the HIV / AIDS urgencies facing the country, he observes that “the Department of Health’s ARV planning is not based on a rigorous needs analysis.”
“In the context of expenditure management”, he continued, “the symptoms of ill-health were diagnosed by the Auditor General when he issued ‘disclaimer’ opinions for 69% of the total EC budget for the period 1996 – 2007. The Department of Housing was not able to spend some 29% of its housing budget, an amount of R928 million, between 2000 and 2004 and, in 2007 had to return R500 million to the National Treasury.” He gave several other illustrations of the malaise.
Between 1999 and 2005 the PSAM tracked 691 cases of unaccounted for funds, misconduct, corruption, maladministration and conflicts of interest. The total amount involved was R6,9 billion. Only 10% of these cases were resolved, representing 5% or R325 million of this.
In conclusion, Allan said that he did not find the prospects for improved service delivery very good, under either Zuma or Mbeki – “unless five public resource management processes are strengthened and the state is transformed into a social accountability system.” He listed these as Planning and Resource allocation, Expenditure management, Performance management, Public Integrity and Oversight, which should be audited.
“It must be realised”, he observed, “that the perceived right of entitlement by the country and its citizens leads to an obligation on the part of the State”.
Universities have a role to play, he believes. “They need to engage with the concept of the state as a social accountability system and to begin to transfer evidence-based analytical and advocacy skills.”