KZN Education facing R1.4billion overspend

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Education (DOE) is facing a possible R1.4billion overspend, unless radical cutbacks are made in crucial areas of its programme.

Planned cuts include R500million from infrastructure, R400m from “goods and services” – which includes teacher support and norms and standards payments to schools – along with the likelihood of huge budget reductions within LTSM, which includes textbooks and stationery.

Added to the department’s woes is the probable unbudgeted payment of around R450 million for markers salaries.  This figure is still dependent on the outcome of current negotiations with trade unions.

The drastic move is an effort to offset a huge unbudgeted and unfunded increase of R860million for teachers’ salaries.

The DOE cannot rely on a top-up from National Treasury as there is no money.  This means that the department’s audit disclaimer for unauthorized expenditure and a top slice next year of this amount will compound the problem for next year’s budget.

Every year KwaZulu-Natal’s DOE faces the prospect of wage agreements between the National Department of Basic Education and teacher unions.  In many instances salary increases are beyond what they anticipate.

Of concern to the DA is that the shortage of education funds has not been honestly addressed by the cabinet when decisions are made on the allocation of the R90 billion provincial budget.

Compared to the 2011 allocation, where Education received 44% of the budget in KwaZulu-Natal, the 2013 allocation is only 42%, an effective R1.8 billion less on current figures. What that means is that despite the acknowledged need for priority funding for this national number one priority, money is first being spent on other nice-to-haves in KwaZulu-Natal.

Politics is about determining the main areas of concern within financial restraints.  Unless funding follows these priorities, political mandates will merely remain hot air.

It is imperative that national departments who negotiate wage agreements receive the necessary go-ahead from Treasury for the transfer of funds to provinces so that wage increases can be met.

It is an exercise in futility to increase teacher salaries and then pay for them by taking books away from learners.  This undermines any real benefit that may have resulted from happier teachers in the classroom.