Department’s Ignorance Puts Lives at Risk

Anthony Benadie MPL DA Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga The unpreparedness of the Mpumalanga government to deal with natural disasters, not only risks the lives of Mpumalanga’s people, but also holds the potential to wreck the financial stability of infrastructure departments, such as the department of Public Works, Roads and Transport (DPWRT). During a meeting of the portfolio committee of DPWRT in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature yesterday, MEC Dikeledi Mahlangu admitted that her department did not budget for disasters, and despite undertakings from the national department of Cooperative Governance, it has not reimbursed for expenses incurred from previous natural disasters. This issue came to light following a cost curtailment memo issued to departmental officials on January 2, 2013 instructing them to amongst others cut travelling, phone and catering costs. Click here to view the memo. When quizzed on the cause of the cost cutting measures, MEC Mahlangu sited natural disasters – in particular floods – as the reason; and admitted that the department does not budget for such due to the associated risk of having to return unspent funds to treasury. To the DA’s knowledge, there were no natural disasters from April 2012 to the date of the memo, begging the question whether the MEC’s responses were indeed accurate, and whether cutting on these particular expenses would in fact secure sufficient funds to effectively assist in flood damage repairs. Failure to budget for natural disasters is ignorant and could have dire consequences for the public, as even the smallest natural disaster may have an extensive long-term negative effect on disaster victims – due to the inability of government to respond to disasters. To attain more clarity on this irresponsible practice, the DA has submitted further questions to MEC Mahlangu to determine how government’s response to future disasters might be funded. Considering that no natural disasters occurred from April 2012 to the date of the cost curtailment memo, and that the instituted cost curtailment measures might be inadequate to fund disaster repair efforts, we seriously doubt the accuracy of the MEC’s responses given, and have asked the Legislature Speaker, William Lubisi, to investigate whether the responses were accurate, or if we have perhaps been deliberately misled.

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