MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs Jerry Ndou spells out his plans for the road ahead.
MEC Jerry Ndou is fired up to live up to the declaration in the Freedom Charter central to his department’s core mandate.
One of Coghsta’s key delivery requirements is the delivery of human settlements to many of the province’s poor citizens who looked upon government to provide a safe roof over their heads.
Ndou recently celebrated 100 days in office after joining the department in late October 2017.
The move was prompted by a provincial cabinet reshuffle involving three other MECs in a move Premier Stan Mathabatha said was intended to enhance service delivery in the province.
Looking at strides he has made in his 100 days at the helm, it is evident Ndou was prepared for the challenges that lay ahead such as of restoring calm, bringing efficient governance and addressing backlogs in some of the troubled municipalities in the province.
Ndou has an illustrious track record in public service, serving among others as ambassador to Zimbabwe, Libya, Ireland and being the Leader of Government Business in Limpopo.
Ndou says his previous roles as an MP and as his last posting as Limpopo Public Works, Roads and Infrastructure MEC, have helped with a smooth transitioning into Coghsta.
“One of the main responsibilities of CoGHSTA is delivery of RDP houses,” said Ndou, acknowledging the mandate from the Freedom Charter to deliver houses, security and comfort.
His previous role of building and maintaining roads and public infrastructure has prepared him for the enormous task ahead.
“I was mostly involved in infrastructure development projects in other departments, which made it easier to settle (in this portfolio),” said Ndou.
One of the strategic goals of the department is to create sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life.
Since 1994 the department has built over 200 000 RDP houses across the province.
However, the delivery of houses has not been consistent for a while, resulting in a backlog of over 80 000 houses.
The qualified audits pronouncement by the Auditor- General in recent financial years, have prompted urgent action from Ndou.
He has now prioritised good governance as a critical deliverable in his new department. To tackle the issue head on, Ndou embarked on a fact-finding exercise that saw engagements with various municipalities, examining their human settlements targets, challenges and beneficiary models. The findings revealed that most contractors took advantage of the payment method systems.
“There were those who just built a slab… either they did not come back after being paid or took a long time before they came back to finish the job,” said Ndou.
Restoring service delivery reputation through good governance
CoGHSTA is entrusted with delivering services to over five million people of Limpopo. In the 2013/2014 financial year the department, renowned for its award-winning reputation for delivering houses, received a clean audit.
Last year the department received a Diamond Arrow Award by PMA Africa under the category ‘Provincial Government Departments doing most to accelerate service delivery .’
This reputation, however, is under threat owing to eight municipalities being declared dysfunctional by the Auditor-General. While this is a sore a point, it is worth noting that the department has come a long way since the days of having 16 dysfunctional municipalities out of 30 in the whole province.
Ndou is leading various teams tasked with sifting through contractual agreements for human settlement development projects. The turnaround strategy includes contract reviews, changes in contractor payment methods, and imposed audits amongst other interventions. So far, the department has terminated the contracts of 11 non-performing companies as part of Ndou’s hard-line approach.
“If you can’t deliver, then you don’t belong here,” he says.
Ndou says out of this exercise of weeding out non-delivering contractors, they have also found an opportunity to identify those that are tenacious and industrious performers to take over the completion of outstanding projects known as ‘block projects.’
Retaining Treasury allocated budget
In the last financial year Coghsta lost R150m of its budget allocation due to under-expenditure. Every financial-year departments are allocated a budget according to their planned activities and financial projections to enable service delivery. If spending targets are not met, National Treasury reassigns such funds to other departments that need the funds. The National Department of Human Settlements has since reallocated Limpopo’s unspent funds to other provinces.
Municipalities in the province have been severely underspending with some only spending only between 26% and 47% of their total expenditure.
During the 2014/2015 financial year, the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) spending National Comparison, found Limpopo as the province which spent the least of its budget allocation at 72.57 %. Ndou says this challenge also requires attention and this starts with proper financial planning.
“If we plan properly and stick to deadlines we are going to be able to make sure that our expenditure is on course and that we deliver on our mandate,” he said. -Mukurukuru Media