Anthony Benadie MPL
DA Leader in Mpumalanga
On Tuesday March 13, the MEC for Finance, Ms Yvonne Phosa will announce the budget priorities for premier David Mabuza’s State of the Province Address. While premier Mabuza promised more of the same, the DA sincerely hopes that the 2012/13 financial year will not be as beset by wasted billions as the previous financial years.
While the DA has already spoken out about Premier Mabuza’s promises and the lack of substance in his State of the Province Address, the litmus test will come with MEC Phosa’s targeting of priorities. While many departments would probably clamour for increased budgets, the fact remains that financial management is crucial to delivery, and in Mpumalanga, that is sorely lacking.
Thus, the DA believes that the following matters must receive priority in the coming financial year:
1. Financial Management Assistance and Support:
Despite their own clean track record, the provincial treasury has over many years failed to expand their sound financial management approach and discipline to other departments and municipalities.
Therefore, the provincial treasury must support provincial government departments as well as municipalities to manage their finances and financial reporting effectively, not just to attain the goals of Operation Clean Audit 2014, but to ensure that funds reach their intended goals. Additional assistance to municipalities, aimed at addressing their chaotic billing and revenue systems is essential.
2. Bulk Water Supply and Infrastructure:
Water supply in the province has heading for crisis, and along with intermittent electricity supply and poor roads, needs urgent attention. While we would like to see increased spending on bulk water supply and infrastructure delivery, the DA believes that proper financial and revenue management on municipal level would make a large contribution to delivering on those needs. However, bulk water supply programmes are being implemented too slow, and MEC Phosa should dedicate extra funding to such projects, thus increasing water supply to communities. It is critical that Treasury closely monitors MEGA’s implementation of the water infrastructure project to minimise financial wastage.
In addition, an increase in infrastructure spending will stimulate economic growth
and job creation. Government must invest most in areas where such opportunities
are most required.
To prevent further deterioration and to improve quality service, an increased spending on public health services is critical. Not just is there the priority to have all hospitals and primary health clinics comply with National Health Insurance requirements, but crucial vacancies must be filled. The moratorium on spending imposed by the executive brought the health department to its knees, and the resulting shortages of doctors, nurses, essential equipment and crucial medicine supplies have to be filled.
While Education always received the largest budgetary allocation, the focus in the coming financial year should be on attaining value for money. This department requires close monitoring and management assistance and while it does not require significantly more money than previous years, it remains a funding priority.
5. Tourism and MTPA
The opportunities and job creation potential in the Mpumalanga Tourism Sector remains grossly under-exploited. Despite extensive natural beauty, Mpumalanga’s tourist jewels remain un-marketed.
To create jobs from this sector, government must sufficiently drive and fund marketing initiatives to attract tourist to our province. So too, facilities must be upgraded and maintained to ensure we offer world class facilities to our guests.
Conservation is closely linked to tourism, with poor funding rendering the MTPA practically redundant. This entity must be properly funded to ensure conservation programmes can be implemented.
While most government departments may claim budgetary shortfalls, it is largely due to gross financial mismanagement and poor programme implementation. A knee-jerk response from MEC Phosa should not be to throw more funds at departments but instead prioritise to bolstering Mpumalanga as a developmental state and creating opportunities.