Durban - The Office of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier (OTP) is the centre that must hold and it is the custodian of good governance that should set the tone for the province and revive the hope and trust of our people.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader MP Velenkosini Hlabisa made the remark during the budget meeting at the KZN Provincial Legislature on Thursday.
The OTP is responsible for the transversal functioning of government by co-ordinating, monitoring and evaluating the provincial delivery programme.
The structure of the OTP, headed by Sihle Zikalala, received the following allocations; administration (R193 426 million) which provides administrative support to the Premier, Executive Council and the Director-General; Institutional Development R 398 490m; and, governance (R175 635m).
The OTP budget declined from R 802 240m last year, to R767 551m for this (2022/23) financial year.
Hlabisa said the trust deficit grows daily between the government and the citizens of “our country”.
“As a starting point, the vulnerable groups of our province who are exposed to abuse and violence must find shelter, protection and intervention from this office. As the province tries to recover from the triple disastrous effects of Covid-19, the 2021July unrest and the recent floods, the premier must provide leadership on economic recovery and the drive to create more job opportunities.”
Hlabisa added that the OTP must lead when it comes to consequence management, clean audits, corruption-free departments and as the office that spends public funds, do so in an accountable and transparent manner.
Hlabisa said there were issues that must be given special attention. He was speaking of the failure to spend the previous year’s R50m budget for the KZN Youth Fund. This wasn’t acceptable; with the excuse that there were many applications.
“Out of the 4 000 youth who applied, this failure to spend has deprived those who could have been beneficiaries. It will be an injury to our unemployed youth,” Hlabisa said.
The OTP has now allocated R100m to the fund for 2022/2023 to be added during the mid-adjustment budget.
The KZN Youth Empowerment Fund was established in 2018/19 to support youth businesses.
Zikalala said the second tranche of R50m was allocated, originally in 2020/21, but suspended to 2021/22 due to the impact of the national lockdown.
“The total number of applications received is 3 675 and the team is currently screening the process based on the requirements,” according to the premier.
Apart from the initial budget of R50m provided by the office of the premier, a further R20m was committed from the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA).
Zikalala said: “In the 2022 SOPA, we announced that we are increasing the value of the KZN Youth Empowerment Fund commitment from the initial R50m in 2019 to R100m in 2022.”
Hlabisa said the movement of the Forensic Investigation Services from Treasury to OTP has not delivered sufficient tangible results. The IFP notes the 15 concluded investigations.
“Can we be appraised.”
Hlabisa asked, “Out of 15 concluded investigations, how many people have been arrested?”
He further asked how many staff members had been effectively dismissed? And how much has been recovered from those who benefited unfairly? Also, how many service providers have been blacklisted?
“The only way to restore trust in the government by our people will be when we act decisively against corrupt elements and send a clear message that those who steal from the public purse in KwaZulu-Natal will meet the full might of the law,” said Hlabisa.
“Outstanding matters (include) the expenditure on the funerals held in the Royal Family and the funeral of Inkosi Imisebeyelanga Shembe. Expenditures on these funerals have not been sufficiently provided to date,” Hlabisa said.