Provincial fat to be cut
KWAZULU-Natal’s “bloated” Economic, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department is in for a major shake-up as the provincial government investigates 18 public entities in an attempt to slash costs.
Radical options being investigated by Finance MEC Belinda Scott and her department include moving conservation body Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to South Africa’s national entity SANParks and absorbing iThala Bank into the department.
She warned too that there was no money from the province for the Commonwealth Games either (see report below).
In her annual budget speech yesterday, Scott confirmed that some public entities would be shut down, others amalgamated, and the rest investigated as to their effectiveness in contributing to the growth of the provincial economy.
The Department of Economic Development and Tourism is responsible for the oversight of at least 18 public entities such as iThala Bank, Ezemvelo, the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, Dube TradePort, the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, Trade and Investment KZN, Tourism KZN, the Sharks Board and Amafa, among others.
“The department has become just a transferring agency. The bulk of its budget allocation caters for transfers to its entities,” she said.
The province had more public entities than any other in the country.
She said they were doing the work that should be done by the government.
The Finance MEC told The Mercury the realigning of the entities, most of which had expensive governance boards and were heavily staffed, was a direct result of an announcement by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address that called for rationalisation of the public sector and, in particular, cuts in the government’s massive wage bill.
The provincial government employed 205 000 members in 2013.
By last year that had escalated to 213 000.
As an example, Scott said the transfer of Ezemvelo to SANParks was on the table for consideration.
“That is a very interesting discussion that has to happen. The parks are costing this province a fortune. Our largest parks are national parks anyway. It makes sense that they are taken over by SANParks,” she said.
A task team to investigate the efficacy of each of the public companies, and whether or not they were necessary, was under way.
“This is a two-phase stringent process. The task team has been established. There are legal implications. Most of these agencies have legally constituted boards,” she said.
She described “costly”.
The pending Property Development Agency would be shut down immediately.
“That hasn’t even been set up yet, so its easy to do away with it.”
Scott said, however, it was not her aim to spread panic among the staff of the affected entities.
“Of course those that are critical to the growth of the provincial economy, such as the Dube TradePort and the Richards Bay IDZ, will remain. But we must look at their efficiency.”
She said in some instances entities could merge.
“For example, iThala Bank. It’s main focus is small business. We have an SMME unit inside the department. Why do we need them both?”
Bheko Madlala, spokesman for the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mike Mabuyakhulu, would only confirm that they were aware that the rationalisation process was underway.
“We know that a process is under way. Until that process is concluded we don’t want to comment,” Madlala said.
Scott said she had already had meetings with Mabuyakhulu.
“I have spoken to the MEC; we have already started working through this. The process will include Treasury, the Office of the Premier and the Department of Agriculture as they are involved as well.”
Zamo Gwala, who heads Trade and Investment KZN, said the move was not news to him.
“As you know, there was a task team set up by President Jacob Zuma at national level to investigate this matter.” he said.
“It was also discussed at a provincial cabinet lekgotla. The discussion is at a cabinet level now. I don’t know really what path the discussions are taking.”
Gwala said, however, the sooner he was told of the plans, the better.
Scott said while she could not give a deadline for the conclusion of the process, she had instructed the appointed team to move quickly and efficiently to avoid any uncertainty.
“This was a national directive and all the provinces are going through this process,” she said.
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