Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, at the National Council of Provinces Strategic Planning Workshop, Cape Town

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces;
Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Provincial Legislatures;
Honourable Members of the NCOP
Deputy National Chairperson and members of the South African Local Government Association:

As this is the first opportunity that I have had to address the National Council of Provinces of the 4th Parliament, let me start by congratulating all Honourable Members on your election to this august House. 

I would like, in particular to congratulate Honourable Mninwa Mahlangu on his re-election as the chairperson of this illustrious institution.

The National Council of Provinces of the 3rd Parliament had established a close working relationship between the chairperson himself, members of the National Council and the Speakers of the provincial legislatures. I trust that these levels of interaction will continue and grow from strength to strength.

I thank you for inviting me to this Strategic Planning Workshop of the National Council of Provinces. 

I trust that your deliberations so far have afforded all of you an opportunity to refocus on the seminal mandate of the NCOP as set out in the Constitution of Republic of South Africa, namely to "ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government ... by participating in the national legislative process and by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues affecting the provinces". 

My firm view is that this workshop is being conducted at the right time. It is very important both to orientate new members on the role that they must play in the important task of bringing about positive changes in the lives of the people of South Africa and to ensure that the institution as a whole has a common perspective on the direction it must take in this regard.

Our people have put their confidence in you as their Tribunes - that you will enrich the effectiveness of our Parliament through your dedication and selflessness. 

Honourable members, 

Allow me to reiterate the objectives of this Strategic Planning Workshop which include:

* providing a platform for the elaboration and planning of the work of the NCOP; 
* identifying oversight priorities for the National Council of Provinces for the fourth Parliament taking into account the interests of provinces; 
* determining the NCOP's approach to public participation; and 
* ensuring a common understanding of the parts to be played by the different role-players in the NCOP for purposes of implementing the new Strategic Framework Plan of the NCOP. 

The direction of the NCOP must come from and be informed by a dynamic interaction with Provincial Legislatures. 

The understanding from this is that matters arising from, and of concern to our provinces are thereby placed on the agenda of this House with an intention of influencing national decision-making processes and oversight work. 

This will result in a co-ordinated mandate flowing between the provincial and national spheres of government and simultaneously ensure that there is a harmonisation of programmes of action. 

Without a doubt, in the implementation of programmes aimed at poverty eradication and employment creation the three spheres of government have to function in accord. 

Honourable Members,

Yesterday Cabinet adopted a Legislative Programme for the rest of this year. The programme sets out the Bills that will be tabled and the dates by which they can be expected. We will be submitting a copy of this Programme to this House shortly and I trust that it will assist both the National Council and Provincial Legislatures in planning their programmes. 

We expect the NCOP to ensure effective provincial participation in the national legislative process, particularly with regard to matters where both the provincial and national spheres of government have concurrent legislative competence - the so called section 76 Bills. 

Chairperson, 

We are convinced as the Executive, that the NCOP has a critical role, on behalf of the Provinces in ensuring that Government Programmes are implemented to their maximum potential.

Cabinet has adopted a Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) which has identified 10 strategic priorities, which need to be successfully implemented, in order to improve the lives of the people of South Africa.

Monitoring will need to be an integral part of this process, as it is one of the main instruments to ensure that we achieve the objectives of meeting the needs of our people.

The 10 Strategic Priorities of the MTSF, including the monitoring mechanism, are as follows:

* Speeding up growth and transforming the economy to create decent work and sustainable livelihoods; 
* A massive economic and social infrastructure programme; 
* A comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agrarian reform and food security; 
* Strengthening the skills and human resource base; 
* Improving the health profile of all South Africans; 
* Intensifying the fight against crime and corruption; 
* Building cohesive, caring and sustainable; communities; 
* Pursuing African advancement and enhanced international cooperation; 
* Sustainable resource use and management; and 
* Building a developmental state including improvement of public services and strengthening democratic institutions. 

As the National Council of Provinces, you bring together the legislatures of the National, Provincial and Local spheres of Government. You therefore have a crucial role to play in evaluating the implementation of these ten Strategic Priorities in each sphere. 

I would imagine that you will find time and space in this critical workshop to identify monitoring mechanisms that will be implemented to ensure that each of these 10 areas yields the desired results.

The NCOP is an important institutional partner in realising the implementation of this programme of action by the provinces and local municipalities. 

In truth the urgency of this matter cannot be overemphasised given the recent spiralling challenges at local government level. 

The spate of service delivery protests we have witnessed are an indication of pressing work that lies ahead, which must be tackled in partnerships, guided by the vision of an activist parliament. 

As government we have long recognised the imperative value of partnerships across all fronts. What needs to be emphasised however, is the need to ensure that we use partnerships to maximum advantage, such as in addressing service delivery questions.

Achievement of government Programme of Action goals assumes exactly that our efforts are well-coordinated across the three spheres of government, consciously driven by common imperatives.

As the 2009 Programme Report of the NCOP points out: "the central role of Parliament in service delivery is to ensure that the aspirations of the electorate in our society are met". 

I have an unshakable belief in the capacity of the National Council because in the previous third Parliament you acquitted yourself well in the following:

You increased oversight work that is guided by input from the provinces and local government regarding their needs and interests; 
You promoted public participation with a clear impact on service delivery and the work of Parliament; 
You improved support to local government through closely monitoring government programmes at municipal level; and 
You improved co-operative government through the NCOP's sustained contribution. 

Chairperson,

We can govern better if there is effective oversight of the implementation of government programmes.

There have been problems in the past where National Assembly Portfolio Committees, NCOP Select Committee, Provincial Legislature Committees and sometimes Local Government Committees all conduct oversight visits separately to the same places.

Whilst this is not necessarily a duplication as the implementation of government programmes can be assisted by oversight and monitoring on different levels, I would suggest that we need to ensure that there is effective coordination in this regard. 

The oversight role of the NCOP must result in referrals, follow -ups and report backs.

For in truth it is not enough to just visit a project or an office and find out there are problems.

We need to get feedback that the problems have been solved and this is something that does not necessarily happen overnight.

Honourable members, 

Your work in the NCOP will no doubt result in the co-alignment of areas of national, provincial and local competence that are prioritised in the MTSF. 

As public representatives our oversight work, our participation in legislative considerations and decision-making processes have to factor in that we work in sync at all three levels of government. 

In the implementation of our strategic priorities such as improving our public services and strengthening democratic institutions, there cannot be dissonance in what takes place at provincial and national levels. 

Therefore in your planning, I believe, you should be informed by, amongst others the interests and concerns articulated at local government, the coalface of delivery. 

This is another reason why I am pleased by the presence of members of SALGA, who in terms of our Constitution are entitled to up to 10 representatives who may participate in the proceedings of the NCOP but may not vote.

Chairperson, 

The context of your discussions during this Strategic Planning Workshop will have to cover issues such as facilitating better public participation, deliberating on your mandate of overseeing the executive and other state organs and having shared ideas on how best to promote intergovernmental relations. 

In this instance let me congratulate your predecessors in the third Parliament for finalisation and adoption of the new Oversight and Accountability Model to enhance Parliament's oversight work. 

Honourable members, 

It is clear that the NCOP has to face up to specific challenges such as "the need to move from ordinary oversight to outcomes-based oversight, consolidation of democracy through a people-centred approach, and nation-building, including building consensus on issues of national interest". 

In furtherance of overcoming these challenges, you can count on the executive to cooperate with you and provide appropriate assistance so that you can carry out your duties and tasks effectively. 

Furthermore, I am encouraged that beginning in the last term you have considered it imperative to establish closer working relationships with the office of the Auditor-General and the Ministry of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to monitor and support local and provincial governments. 

At the same time, you must be steadfast in adhering to your oversight responsibilities even with regard to these partnerships.

In the process you will be satisfying your obligations to the electorate in their interactions with local government. 

As stipulated in section 154 (1) of our Constitution:

"The national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions". 

Chairperson, 

The challenges we face largely at local level in terms of capacity, communication, mismanagement and instability can and will be overcome. 
The findings of a departmental task team on service delivery problems in Mpumalanga indicate that many of the concerns raised by communities revolve around: 
* ward committees that are not fully functional, resulting in poor communication with communities, 
* financial mismanagement and allegations of fraud and corruption, 
* poor planning, maintenance and management of infrastructure resulting in poor service delivery, and 
* IDP and budgeting processes not being aligned in some municipalities. 
In this regard, all of us need to join hands actively to consolidate our respective responses into one frontal assault on incompetence, corruption, lack of skills, and successful implementation of IDPs, which are aligned with provincial and national priorities.
In the final analysis I am in full agreement with the research on the Impact of Taking Parliament to the People Programme, which indicates areas of success where the executive has worked closely with the NCOP.

I am happy that the NCOP Strategic Framework Plan will be subjected to regular annual assessments and review of the priorities informed by prevailing circumstances and for purposes of emphasis. 

This will provide an opportunity for the work of the NCOP to always be in agreement with the process of modifying these strategic priorities on the part of the executive.
May the National Council of Provinces grow from strength to strength and execute its functions successfully. 
I thank you. 

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