CAPE TOWN, South Africa, August 21, 2020/ — The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) yesterday received a briefing from the Northern Cape Provincial Government on their Covid-19 Response Plan as part of the series of provincial governments reporting to the committee on their interventions and preparedness for dealing with the pandemic. The committee received reports from the Provincial Departments of Health, Education and Social Development.
The committee enquired whether adequate testing was being done given the vast geographical size of the province. Thus far 5.5% of the population of 1.2 million has been tested and the committee wanted to know if this number was adequate in preparation to respond to the pandemic.
It has been noted that the Northern Cape Province has recorded less than 100 Covid-19-related deaths so far, and an order for 5 000 body bags to the value of R3.2 million has been placed. However, this order was not received and paid for, something which is fortunate as it would have been seriously problematic given the comparatively low mortality rate in the province.
The topical issue in South Africa currently is the misuse of Covid-19-related procurement for private gain. Citizens are demanding increased transparency in the awarding of Covid-19-related tenders. The committee appreciated that the Provincial Command Council presentation provided the breakdown of Covid-19-related expenditure by departments, and costs of food parcel allocation by district.
The health portion of the presentation also provided the spending allocation in respect of additional staff, oxygen capacity for in-patients, additional in-patient structures, medical equipment and quarantine/isolation facilities. The education portion likewise provided expenditure figures relating to the resourcing of Covid-19 interventions in schools.
However, citizens are demanding more. They want to see a deeper level of transparency, especially in relation to the companies and individuals appointed to supply all Covid-19 related goods and services including the number of contracts awarded and their value. This aspect does not come out clearly in any of the sectoral presentations, and therefore the committee calls for the list of awarded Covid-19 tenders and their values, and encourages the provincial government to scrutinise this matter.
One of the key interventions to limit the spread of Covid-19 is the frequent washing of hands. This requires the provision of water and sanitation. The committee is concerned that the Provincial Education Department has committed itself to spending R47 million on the provision of water and sanitation in schools.
Yet the presentation indicated that, as at 31 July 2020, the department has not spent any of that money. This had immediate disruptive consequences as some school governing bodies issued letters to parents requesting them not to send learners to school because of the sanitation provision challenges. Some communities protested against the phasing in of learners, citing water challenges. The committee urges the province to ensure that the four schools which are currently non-operational due to water and sanitation challenges are attended to immediately.
Of serious concern to the committee, is that the province does not have a fully resourced Disaster Management Centre to deal with disasters in the province, and urges the province to ensure that priority is given to the establishment of the centre as stipulated in the Disaster Management Act No 57 of 2002, Chapter 4.
A further concern is that there is non-reporting on Covid-19 funding allocated through disaster grants by CoGTA. The committee noted that municipalities received R3.1 million in May 2020 and as of August, there has only been a collective spending of R268 000, which is disturbing given the seriousness of the pandemic. This funds are meant for the procurement of PPEs and hygiene packs, yet the committee heard that staff at Brandvlei Hospital were without PPEs.
The committee has requested the province to submit the Provincial Drought Plan to mitigate and ensure preparedness towards drought, including response plans by all sectors by next Tuesday.