Cape Town - South Africa is failing to deliver services to
the poor despite its substantial fiscus, Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said
He urged MPs to practice better oversight over government.
They should not only be asking whether money was spent as
budgeted, but also whether it was prioritised properly to relieve poverty.
"In most instances, such information that is available
tends to relate to whether money was spent as appropriated, and not the changes
effected with the resource," Manuel said at a seminar on role of pParliament
in attaining the UN millennium development goals.
Manuel said the problem with perfunctory oversight was that
outcomes of government spending "remains hidden from scrutiny". MPs
should work to change this.
He said unlike those of many developing nations, South
Africa's fiscus was large enough to fund development "way beyond" the
attainment of the millennium development goals.
Changing the lives of the poor was more about the commitment
legislators had made to citizens than about meeting pledges made to the UN.
"In this regard, we must accept that despite the
adequate allocation of funding, we fail to deliver quality service to the
The former finance minister said it was vital for the auditor general to monitor whether money was spent according to public finance
rules. However, this was not a yardstick of delivery in itself.
"We need to develop radically new approaches to how
legislatures are involved in the measurement of progress - the instruments
available are important, but woefully inadequate," Manuel said.
"All that the auditor general's report indicates is
whether the money was appropriated as planned, or indeed whether there has been
misappropriation ... we know nothing about the quality of service or the impact
of these resources on the poor."
Citing education as an example, Manuel said despite spending 6% of its gross domestic product on it, South Africa was one of Africa's poor performers
He urged MPs to demand better information from government
officials, and not to be content with annual briefings from department leaders
who blamed their predecessors for a lack of progress.
"All of this must change, not just because UN has set
this down as a requirement or our donors desire it, but because it is the very
least that legislators must do to deal with the ravages and the scourge of