For­get­ting the most es­sen­tial part of ser­vice de­liv­ery

If Provin­cial Week is to make a dif­fer­ence, we need to re­assess the tourism ind­aba it’s be­come, writes Brid­get Masango

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE - Brid­get Masango is an MP and DA Gaut­eng del­e­gate to the NCOP

DUR­ING our ori­en­ta­tion as new Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment in the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces, the NCOP chair­woman, Thandi Modise, rightly pointed out that we mem­bers must ful­fil our unique man­date through the three pil­lars of leg­is­la­tion, pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion and over­sight.

Provin­cial Week, which was this week, is one such pro­gramme that com­bines over­sight and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion.

How­ever, hav­ing com­pleted my first Provin­cial Week this year, I can­not help but won­der whether the pro­gramme is adding value to South Africans or merely win­dow dress­ing poor ser­vice de­liv­ery.

I was op­ti­mistic that we would be in­ter­ro­gat­ing our prov­ince’s ser­vice de­liv­ery ef­forts and en­gag­ing with var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties to hear the real is­sues that were af­fect­ing them.

At first glance, I thought Provin­cial Week was a good ex­am­ple of com­bin­ing over­sight and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion where we would have the op­por­tu­nity to make a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives. Un­for­tu­nately, I was mis­taken. Our sug­gested sites were ig­nored by the Gaut­eng Leg­is­la­ture, which in­stead pro­duced a dis­torted pro­gramme that did not rep­re­sent the real state of ser­vice de­liv­ery in the prov­ince. By this I mean a pro­gramme that shows the full ex­tent of ser­vice de­liv­ery – the suc­cesses and fail­ures of the gov­ern­ment.

Upon ar­rival, we were again in­formed by Premier David Makhura that the pro­gramme would cover a wide range of in­te­grated in­ter­ven­tions from var­i­ous de­part­ments and that we would be given the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage and lis­ten to com­mu­ni­ties about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

Again, I be­came hope­ful be­cause this is what Provin­cial Week is all about. But my hopes were short-lived. We spent most of our time iso­lated in a for­mal meet­ing room with­out any com­mu­nity mem­bers present; some­thing that could eas­ily have hap­pened in Par­lia­ment.

Nev­er­the­less, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties pre­sented the sta­tus of their ser­vice de­liv­ery and plans made to in­crease the level of ser­vice de­liv­ery in the prov­ince. This was en­cour­ag­ing un­til we went out to meet peo­ple and saw the sites for our­selves.

The story on the ground was far dif­fer­ent to what we were told in the meet­ing.

At a com­mu­nity meet­ing in Sed­ibeng, res­i­dents told us about their ser­vice de­liv­ery con­cerns which re­lated to hous­ing, em­ploy­ment, elec­tric­ity and wa­ter.

Ex­cept for hous­ing, all the con­cerns are the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of the na­tional gov­ern­ment.

I carry the sto­ries of the Sed­ibeng res­i­dents with me. Sto­ries of il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of houses, hous­ing money that is miss­ing, re­served jobs and pot­holes on ma­jor roads lead­ing to health fa­cil­i­ties like the Van­der­bi­jl­park clinic and ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties like Boiket­long Christian Pri­mary School, which is run down and di­lap­i­dated.

We were con­fronted with th­ese is­sues but could not deal with them by speak­ing to the re­spon­si­ble of­fi­cials or es­tab­lish­ing the facts sur­round­ing each one.

Th­ese South Africans have put their faith in us as pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives. We have a duty to cham­pion their con­cerns at na­tional, provin­cial and lo­cal gov­ern­ment lev­els.

In the end it seemed that with ev­ery visit, the del­e­ga­tion was scur­ried along, moved quickly from one des­ti­na­tion to the next. There was lit­tle time al­lowed to en­gage with peo­ple or to over­see each site in its en­tirety.

We were no more than sheep be­ing herded from one point to another to have the wool pulled over our eyes and made to be­lieve the provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s “good story”.

In­stead of an open eval­u­a­tion of the level of ser­vice de­liv­ery in Gaut­eng, the Gaut­eng Provin­cial Leg­is­la­ture merely re­sponded to Provin­cial Week as a tourist ind­aba.

And if the in­creas­ing spate of ser­vice de­liv­ery protests around South Africa is any­thing to go on, then we have a duty to trans­form Provin­cial Week into a mean­ing­ful ex­er­cise by Par­lia­ment and to do so now.

It is for this rea­son that I made the fol­low­ing con­struc­tive pro­pos­als in the NCOP’s de­bate on Provin­cial Week in or­der to re­think the way it is im­ple­mented:

Ex­tend the time. One week ev­ery year is not enough to get to grips with the is­sues that mat­ter to peo­ple in prov­inces. In fact, one might go so far as to say that the del­e­gates to the NCOP should be spend­ing most of our time in our prov­inces rather than in Par­lia­ment.

Smaller del­e­ga­tions. The size of the del­e­ga­tions can be re­duced to ef­fec­tively in­ter­act and en­gage with res­i­dents.

Show the good and the bad. Projects and de­liv­ery can­not be win­dow-dressed to give a dis­torted view and thus pre­vent the NCOP del­e­gates from in­ter­ven­ing.

One such area was per­haps the DA-run Mid­vaal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity where we vis­ited new hous­ing and road projects in the area but were not given a plat­form to en­gage with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity on ser­vice de­liv­ery con­cerns.

In short, we must fo­cus our at­ten­tion on the ba­sics of ser­vice de­liv­ery.

In line with the gov­ern­ment’s “Back to Ba­sics” cam­paign our ini­tial vis­its should in­clude wa­ter treat­ment plants, lo­cal schools and hos­pi­tals and po­lice sta­tions.

Imag­ine if we had vis­ited the Eiken­hof pump sta­tions on the East Rand.

Per­haps we would have seen that the back-up sub­sta­tion was “out of ser­vice” and then we could have in­ter­vened to pre­vent or mit­i­gate the wa­ter cri­sis that oc­curred in large parts of Gaut­eng on Septem­ber 15 this year.

As the DA del­e­gates in the NCOP, I be­lieve that we have the op­por­tu­nity to trans­form provin­cial vis­its into mean­ing­ful over­sight and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion where the NCOP is best placed to re­spond to the con­cerns of all South Africans.

Un­for­tu­nately, though, I have to con­clude that Provin­cial Week in its cur­rent form is lit­tle more than an ex­pen­sive provin­cial tour.

It is not adding the value that it can and should be adding to the lives of our peo­ple.

But, if we can make th­ese small changes to the way we run the NCOP, then I am con­fi­dent that we will make a huge dif­fer­ence in the lived ex­pe­ri­ence of all South Africans.

PIC­TURE: ITUME­LENG ENGLISH

FOR THE PEO­PLE? The Gaut­eng Leg­is­la­ture pro­duced a dis­torted pro­gramme that did not rep­re­sent the true state of what is hap­pen­ing on the ground in each prov­ince, but in­stead ap­peared to be about win­dow dress­ing, says the writer.

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