ATC100908: Report Oversight Visit to the Eastern Cape Province

Standing Committee on Appropriations

Report of the Standing Committee on Appropriations on the Oversight Visit to the Eastern Cape Province, 08 September 2010


The Standing Committee on Appropriations, having undertaken an oversight visit to the Eastern Cape Province on the 2–6 August 2010, reports as follows:


1. Introduction


The discriminatory policies of the apartheid government created huge backlogs in the provision of services mainly to black communities, particularly in rural areas. To date, traces of these policies can be seen across the country. In an effort to reverse the consequences of these policies the democratically elected government of the Republic of South Africa introduced two conditional grants in the 2007/08 financial year aimed at addressing backlogs in electricity, water and sanitation at schools and clinics. These were the then Department of Minerals and Energy’s conditional grant for backlogs in the electrification of clinics and schools as well as the then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s conditional grant for addressing backlogs in water and sanitation at clinics and schools. The Division of Revenue Act 2007 provided that these conditional grants would come to an end in the 2009/10 financial year. Accordingly these grants were terminated and the 2010/11 Division of Revenue Act made no provision for them.


The Committee was and remains concerned about the termination of the conditional grants mentioned above. It is its considered view that the objectives for which these grants were put in place have not been entirely achieved. Countless schools and clinic in rural areas remain without electricity, water and sanitation. To this end, the Committee is committed to engaging extensively with the relevant offices to ensure that rural communities are not disadvantaged by some of the decisions made on their behalf.


It is against this background that the Standing Committee on Appropriations undertook an oversight visit to the Province of Eastern Cape. The purpose of the visit was to ascertain the progress made in dealing with backlogs in the electrification, water and sanitation at clinics and schools in the Province of Eastern Cape. The Committee invited both the national and provincial departments of Education, Health and Energy to get an extensive account and the broader understanding of the challenges that still remain in dealing with backlog. Some schools and clinics were sampled for the visit to get primary data and experiences of communities. This was to assist in getting evidence on the impact of these conditional grants, thus assisting the Committee to provide its perspective on the discontinuation of these grants. The following schools and clinics were visited: Machamtsholo Junior Primary School in Port St Johns, Manzana Senior Secondary School in Engcobo, Weltevreden Farm School in Queenstown, Nkumandeni Clinic in Ngqeleni and Manzana Clinic in Engcobo.




2. Briefing by the Provincial Department of Health, National Department of Water Affairs, Eskom and Provincial Department of Human Settlements


The Committee had a briefing with the Provincial Department of Health, National Department of Water Affairs (DWA), Eskom and Provincial Department of Human Settlements. These assisted the Committee to gather more information about the provincial status regarding electrification, water and sanitation of schools and clinics.


During the engagement, the Director-General (DG) of the Department of Water Affairs indicated that the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) was appointed as a special purpose vehicle. Its responsibility was to implement projects that aim to eradicate water and sanitation backlogs. The responsibility of project quantification remained with the sector departments. The process was thus one of collaboration between DWA and other sector departments. It was indicated that there are still schools without sanitation in the province and approximately R150 million is still needed for the sanitation of the remaining schools.


It was reported that a list of clinics that were allocated to the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) were all provided with water and sanitation. Some of the challenges reported were that in some cases proper water and sanitation were provided but the province was currently experiencing drought which had lasted longer than a year. As a result of the drought schools were left with no water and eventually the VIP system had to be returned to the schools. The cost per unit in building toilets was approximated to R35000 depending on the proximity of schools to urban areas, with the costs getting higher for schools that are far away from urban areas. The following interventions were made to address some of the challenges of water shortages:


·         Roundabouts play pumps,

·         Boreholes, and

·         Connections to existing pipes.


In respect of the roundabout play pumps, schools were required to monitor the facility and report any faults to a telephone number that was provided for this purpose. The Provincial Department of Education was however, aware that schools were not making use of the telephone number due to the inaccessibility of some areas. The Committee noted that the use of VIP Pit Latrines was always a questionable option in terms of whether or not it was the best option in ensuring the dignity of the people.


There are a number of schools that are still without electricity connection in the province. It was indicated that over a thousand schools that still needed electrification and thus additional funding was still required. In the 2008 / 09 financial year, 174 schools were electrified while 155 schools were electrified in the 2009/10 financial year. There seems to be a challenge in quantifying a number of schools that are still without electricity. This negatively impacts on the credibility of data that is used for policy decision making. During the hearings, it transpired that while Eskom (implementing agency) have a complete database of schools that had been electrified, the Provincial Department of Education failed to provide information on a number of schools without electricity.


The Committee was informed that the Provincial Department of Human Settlements was responsible for managing the water and sanitation in the province. It was reported that it had been a challenge to get the electrification programme going. To this end, the Committee noted that the Department of Energy needed to account for the funding given to it for the electrification of schools and clinics.   Notably, the National Department of Energy was not present at the oversight despite having been invited and having confirmed receipt of the invite. 


The Committee was informed that the only clinics that were not attended to were those that did not fall under the category and the mandate of the Provincial Department of Human Settlements. Nationally, 1 786 schools remained without electrification. It was indicated that government adopted solar panel as other form of energy to schools and clinics in communities without proper electricity infrastructure. While these solar panels were installed, a number of challenges were reported, some of which were observed during the visit. These include:


·         Lack of maintenance, which results to non-functionality.

·         Theft and vandalism.

·         Lack of sufficient voltage to connect appliances, including refrigerators that store medicines in some clinics. Energy from solar energy only suffices for lighting purpose.

·         Solar panels are dependent on weather.

·         The responsibility of the maintenance of the solar panels was often left with the school principals or the clinic managers without the provision of a maintenance plan.   


The void between the national and provincial departments was noted to be glaring. An amount of R567 million was unspent in conditional grants by the Province in the 2009/10 financial year. It was therefore the view of the Committee that the departments that were not in attendance ought to be invited to appear before the Committee at the earliest convenience to respond to outstanding matters. 


The Committee ascertained whether specifications given to contractors for construction of new schools and clinics include installation of electricity, water and sanitation. It was reported that specifications are drafted by the relevant sector department’s and the Department of Public Works’ contracts as per the departments’ specifications.


The Committee was concerned that some clinics are operating for 8 hours per day even in areas where there are no hospitals and these clinics are closed during weekends. The Committee views health care as one of the most critical services and priorities of the national government. The Constitution regards this service as basic and provides that every citizen has a right to health care. The closing of clinics after business hours and during weekends violates this fundamental right as might unnecessarily put peoples’ lives at health risk. The Committee was of a view that health services ought to be provided for 24 hours per day, particularly in areas where there were no hospitals. The National and Provincial Departments of Health have concurrent functions in respect of health according to the Constitution. Municipalities who were providing clinic services were embarking on unfunded mandates.


The Committee was informed by the departments present that there were efforts at national level to deal with the gaps in planning and coordination. The Committee was further informed of a serious challenge, which involved some municipalities, who used their allocated funds for unscheduled maintenance on other things and then called on the Department of Water Affairs in quest of additional funding.


The Department of Human Settlements had not registered the programme with the Department of Public Works as an Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP). As such it was not benefiting from the EPWP Incentive Grant. The Department of Public Works would look into this in order to expand the programme. It was the view of the Committee that the Department of Human Settlement had not familiarized itself with the priorities of government one of which is the creation of employment.


2. Public Service Commission (PSC)


The representative from the Public Service Commission (PSC), Mr Mafanya, indicated that visits were undertaken to service delivery sites, including clinics. It was reported that some clinics were running on prepaid electricity and the Provincial Department of Health did not provide money as and when requested. The Committee noted this as a serious concern, as the rural people mainly rely on clinics for health care services. The PSC further reported that, in some cases there were maternity wards that were heated with paraffin heaters. In two clinics in the O.R. Tambo District there was no water despite having taps about 20 meters from the clinic. In this case there was piping done from the tap to the clinic but no connection. The Commission had sampled these clinics and was of the view that the observed trends were typical in the province.


The Committee was keen to establish what the specifications given by the Department of Health to the Department of Public Works were. The PSC was requested to provide a written submission by Thursday, 5 August 2010. The Commission was requested to be specific in its submission to assist the work of the Committee and for the province to make a follow up.


The Department of Water Affairs noted that there were a lot of inroads that had been made however there remained a lot more outstanding work. The public service generally did not have adequate planning capacity.  Oftenly, there was no alignment of the budget to the strategy. This led to duplication and wastage. It was also the view of the Department of Water Affairs that it was not proper to have all departments implementing. The result was that different departments would give different reports. There was a need to look into the model of centres of excellence.


The Committee made categorically clear that its responsibility was with the majority of people who were yearning for services. It was of the view that various departments such as the Department of Energy needed to coordinate with the other sector departments.  It was noted that the lack of support from other departments was posing a challenge to the works being done by the Provincial Department of Human Settlements.


3. Sites Visits


3.1 Day 1: Machamtsholo Junior Primary School in Port St Johns and     Nkumandeni Clinic in Ngqeleni


The Committee visited Machamtsholo Junior Primary School in Port St Johns. This school was built by a community using sticks and mud in 1997 and was registered as a section 21 school under the South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 by the Provincial Department of Education. It has three classrooms, accommodating four grades with total number of 105 learners and four teachers. Since the establishment of this school, no assistance was received from the Provincial Department of Education with regard to proper buildings, water supply, sanitation and electrification.


The School Governing Body (SGB) reported that an application was submitted to the Department of Education requesting proper infrastructure and this application was approved by the Department. The new infrastructure was supposed to be built in June 2008 but nothing was done. Since the school was declared a section 21 school in 2009, an amount of R80 000 was transferred to it by the Provincial Department of Education for maintenance, books, stationery and other necessities. The 10 per cent from the schools allocated budget that should have been transferred in January for day-to-day running of the school was only transferred in July 2010. The 45 per cent tranche from the schools allocated budget had not been received at the time of the visit. It was indicated that children of about 12 years walk about 10 kilometers to fetch water from the river. This is done during school hours and significantly impacts on the learning schedule.


The Libode Circuit Manager, Ms F Ngamlana,  reported that, in her circuit, she is responsible for 25 schools of which 5 were still mud schools, and that during the period that Mr John Makgato was still the Member of Executive Council (MEC) for Education in the Province of the Eastern Cape, the school was allocated R100 000 for infrastructure. The Department of Public Works was supposed to carry out the purchasing of materials for the construction. The Committee was informed that there were challenges in the tendering processes and that to date the money was still in the school’s bank account. Attempts by the school governing body to get assistance from the Provincial Department of Education went in vain. The National Department of Basic Education reported that the reports it had received from the Provincial Department of Education differed from what has been observed at the school. The National Department of Basic Education committed to submit a report to the Minister for Basic Education, Hon E Motshekga, in this regard. 


The Committee requested that Ms Ngamlana from the Provincial Department of Education (Libode Circuit) to submit a detailed report in writing to the Committee. This report would include the priority list that was forwarded to the provincial Education Department. 


The second location that was visited by the Committee was the Nkumandeni Clinic in Ngqeleni under the Nyandeni sub-district. This Clinic was established before the 1994 calendar year and it is run by one sister and one nursing assistant who service approximately 70 patients per day. This health facility was facing a number of challenges which limited its ability to provide basic health services. The clinic had a pre-paid electricity meter without any provision for petty cash. Consequently, the staff bought electricity out of their own resources sometimes with the assistance of the clinic’s ward committee members who are unemployed. The electricity was only adequate for lighting and could not be used for refrigerators or other appliances. Solar panels were installed two weeks prior to the visit of the Committee but were still not working. The clinic made use of a gas refrigerator to store vaccines and other medicines that need to be kept in cool temperature. It was reported that the gas refrigerator was not reliable and, as a result, most of the vaccines and medicine are stored in Canzibe Hospital. The Sub-District Manager, Ms V Vaphi, reported that she had submitted a request to Eskom for the upgrade of the electricity at the clinic but was awaiting the response thereto. There were taps for water installed in the clinic but there was no water coming from these taps.


The clinic was also facing other challenges such as the shortage of staff, there is only one ambulance, late response from the emergency service due to, amongst other causes, the bad condition of roads leading to the clinics, provision of a stipend for home-based caregivers, premises were too small and the lack of privacy.


It was reported that the clinic had been promised by the Provincial Department of Health extension of premises in 2007. In 2008 surveyors came, but there was no sign of any construction work thereafter. The Committee requested the District Department of Health to submit expenditure figures to the Committee for more details on the situation of the clinic. The members agreed that the national and provincial departments of Health would have to be invited to Parliament to explain the conditions observed by the Committee.


3.2 Day 2: Weltevreden Farm School in Queenstown, Manzana Senior Secondary School and Manzana Clinic in Engcobo


The Committee visited the Weltevreden Farm School in Queenstown. The school made use of a community hall as its premises. It had five grades ranging from grade R to grade 5. All of these met in one class and there was one teacher who taught all the learners. There was a tap with water just outside the school yard and the school had a VIP toilet on the premises. The Committee was informed that after grade 5 the learners were transported to another school and this transport was provided by the Provincial Department of Education.


The Committee proceeded to Manzana Senior Secondary School in Engcobo. The Mayor of Engcobo Local Municipality, Mr Giyose welcomed the Committee. The Deputy Principal of the School, Mr Mbashe, reported that the School had some infrastructure challenges. It had a prefabricated structure which was constructed in 1995. The lifespan of the building at the time was reported to be five years. Fifteen years later, the structure was dilapidated and posed a risk to learners who were taught in the structure.


The school had neither water nor sufficient toilets. It was reported that the 700 learners taught at the school shared seven toilets. It was reported that a letter had been written to the Provincial Department of Education requesting toilets but no response had been received. The School also reported its need for adequate equipment for its science laboratory as well as storage facilities. The District Department of Education reported that the school would not be assisted with its infrastructure challenges in the 2009/10 financial year. The District Department of Education added that this would be catered for in the 2011/12 financial year. It however, noted that, noting the conditions of other schools in the province, the infrastructure in this School is of a good quality compared to the schools in its priority lists. The District Department of Education also noted that there was a backlog of approximately 500 mud schools that needed urgent attention. The Committee noted that when budget is allocated to schools, the department disregards the norms and standards of the prioritization of schools. As per the information from the Chris HaniDistrict Municipality, the Provincial Managers in physical planning disregards priority lists and allocated fund according to their discretion.


It was reported that, for the school to have a tap inside its premises, it needed to apply to the district municipality. The water would be metered and would need to be paid for. The Committee was informed that the applied ratio for the provision of toilets was 1:20 (i.e. one toilet per 20 learners). The district office also reiterated the challenge that funds were being transferred late to the schools. It was reported that the 10 per cent allocation for day-to-day running was only transferred in June.


The last site visit was to the Manzana Clinic in Engcobo under the Chris Hani District Municipality. This clinic was donated by SAB. The clinic seems to have an impact to the community as it had tuberculosis awareness on the day of the visit. This clinic operates 8 hours per day with an on call system and the strategy to reach the vast areas, assisting about 130 patients per day. The Clinic is very small and short of many resources it needed to provide basic care. A metered electricity box, solar system and electricity poles were installed by Eskom to supply the clinic with electricity. These facilities were not fully functional at the time of the visit. The metered box could only be used for lighting, the solar system and electricity pole were installed 3 years ago but they were still not working. Gas refrigerators were being used to store vaccines and other medicine but they were also not reliable.


The electricity shortage had been reported to the Provincial Department of Health and Eskom but the clinic was informed that there were no funds available to complete these projects. The clinic harvested rain water into Jojo tanks but since the start of the draught that the Province of the Eastern Cape was experiencing, the Engcobo Local Municipality assisted by sending a truck of water to fill up the tanks.


The District Directors, Ms Nkosazana Sixam and Ms Nomeko Kiza, reported to the Committee that, in Engcobo, there were 22 clinics and two Community Health Centres. Seven of these were mud structures registered under the Department of Health. The Manzana Clinic had two full time nurses and four contract nurses instead of the ten that is required. There were only two ambulances that were stationed at the All Saints Hospital and the emergency response time was between two and three hours.


Apart from these, the clinic was facing a number of other challenges such as the aged equipment, the shortage of consultation rooms compromising the privacy of patients and the nurse’s home within the clinics premises was in a bad state. All these challenges were in the clinic’s priority lists which were constantly submitted to the Provincial Department of Health by the District. Some of these priorities had been with the Department for more than two years now.       


The Chairperson of the Clinic’s Ward Committee was also present and informed the Committee about the number of challenges the clinic was facing and their numerous attempts to remedy the clinic’s situation.


4. Stakeholder Engagement


The Committee had a short debriefing meeting with different departments to discuss its observations during the oversight visit in the province. The Committee stressed to the departments that there was a lot that still needed to be done in this province.


     The observations made by the Committee were:

·         While grants for eradication of backlogs in electricity, water supply and clinics were discontinued, there are still many schools and clinics that still require these services in the province.

·         There is still a huge backlog for replacement of mud schools and clinics in the province.

·         Funds for schools and clinics were transferred late by the provincial departments, if transferred at all, and this was slowing down administration,

·         Service providers were paid late for their services,

·         The effect of the Infrastructure Grant funds could not be visible seen by the Committee during its visit.

·         Some of the government interventions are not sustainable, as they depend on weather conditions. These include solar panels and water harvesting through Jojo tanks.

·         Clinics in most rural areas do not sufficiently respond to the needs of communities as they only provide 8 hour services.

·         There are still a lot challenges with regard to energy supply. This includes lack of maintenance of solar panels, installation of prepaid facilities, unfinished connections and electricity supplies that are insufficient to cover the needs of the clinics.


The Committee then requested from the departments:

·         A report from the departments of Basic Education, Health and Energy on issues identified by the Committee on this oversight visit in preparation for a meeting that would be held in Parliament shortly.


Eskom reported that some of the schools that needed to be electrified were not on the Department of Education’s database and were submitted by different individuals directly to Eskom. Vandalizing of the schools and clinics that were already connected was one of the major contributing factors to the backlogs. Eskom acknowledged that a lot still needed to be done in the province and it would need to work closely with the relevant Departments. They also indicated that there are concurrent projects that are being run by other service providers


The Department of Education reported that due to the Department’s over-spending in the 2009/10 financial year it had to stop all payments for that financial year. Projects had to be stopped because there were no funds to pay service providers. The Department explained that the prioritization of schools processes emanated from the District Level. It was indicated that Manzana Secondary School was not on Engcobo District’s priority list and they would make sure it was on the District’s prioritization list of the financial year 2011/12.



The Department of Health informed the Committee that the major contributing factor to the bad state of health services in the Eastern Cape was the lack of funds.  Other reasons that it mentioned were that government departments had to pay government levies and other fees. Corruption within the province and the tendering systems in place led to a poor quality of services as the cheapest service providers were chosen.


The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs reported that it would follow up on most of the issues identified by the Committee during the oversight visit and write a report on them.


The Public Service Commission reported that the priority lists that were submitted to Provincial Departments by Districts were manipulated and this needed to be dealt with first in order for the any other plans to work. The PSC had a report in place for the Committee containing more details on the areas visited by the Committee and the areas that could not be covered.


The National Treasury informed the Committee that it would engage more with the relevant Departments on the issues observed during the visit. It added that it was awaiting a report from the Provincial Departments of Health and Education.


5.  Recommendations:


The Committee recommends that:

·         The National Departments of Education and Health should expedite the process of eradicating mud schools and clinics as the slow pace of doing this hinders provision of the other basic services that are designed to improve the lives of the poor, including provision of electricity, water and sanitation.

·         The Department of Basic Education should improve the coordination and distribution of budget allocation to schools and this should be prioritized at the beginning of each year.

·         Transparency and accountability should be strengthened when the Provincial Departments addresses issues in the priority list from district levels, so as to avoid confusion.


6.  Conclusion:


The Committee concluded that there is a need to identify and strengthen relationships with all stakeholders including local communities in carrying out certain projects so as to ensure the maintenance and ownership of such projects as well as the creation of employment within the communities. There is also another need for the integration and alignment of process within the departments to ensure that all components within the Department are on the same planning levels, especially the Supply Chain and Infrastructure Development Units.



Report to be considered.


No related documents