MEC Rockman must table strategy to sort out Free State financial woes

David van Vuuren MPL

DA Chief Whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature

As we enter a new legislative cycle, the DA calls on MEC Elzabe Rockman to use the opportunity to table a clearly defined strategy that will tackle the Free State provincial government’s financial woes.

While we remain cognisant of budgetary constraints caused by a decrease in the province’s national grants allocations, the people of the Free State expects that the provincial government delivers optimal services within those constraints.

We are particularly concerned about the financial situation within the departments of Health and Education.

The Department of Health entered the current financial year with a R700 million shortfall due to accruals from the previous financial year. Health MEC Malakoane has repeatedly stated that the department requires an additional R4 billion on top of its R8.1 billion allocation to function properly. Considering our shrinking provincial population this surely can’t be the case. The Department of Health must restructure its administrative and financial management functions, bringing it in line with the Public Finance Management Act. We can’t allow people in need of medical care to shown away from hospitals due to the inability of the department to work smarter and deliver better.

The Department of Education started this financial year with a R1.2 billion shortfall and received a very marginal budget increase. Again, we urge MEC Elzabe Rockman to work with the department to restructure it administrative and financial functions so that we can bring the department back into the green. The DA has repeatedly called on Education MEC Tate Makgoe to table a strategy before the portfolio committee to turn the department around, to no avail. The department is now in a situation where it can’t pay service providers and state subsidies to schools. Ultimately this situation will contribute to the high school dropout rate and will negatively affect pass rates.

If the Provincial Treasury fails to turn both the departments of Health and Education’s financial woes around, it would most definitely further exacerbate the current levels of poor service delivery, negatively affecting the quality of life of our people in the province.

We also look forward to MEC Rockman’s plans regarding the Vrede Dairy Project. This is a project spearheaded by government with a budget of more than R342 million to the tax payer over three years with the people of the Free State yet to receive any benefit. Our concerns surrounding the controversy around the project aside, given the money already spent, we would like to see the project become successful and we would like to see concrete plans  on how government will bring it to financial and operational viability.

Considering the current economic climate, our negative national and provincial growth, the threat of recession ever looming, increasing unemployment figures and more than half our Free State population trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, we call on Finance MEC Rockman to spearhead austerity measures throughout all provincial government departments.

MEC Rockman must cap wasteful expenditure, limit spending sprees on luxury items, and decline expensive and noncritical international travel of government officials and MECs. We would also like to see an end to the millions spent on lavish launches, inaugurations and other such parties.

It is now time to tighten our belts and use taxpayer money in such a way that it would have a positive impact on the lives of our people across the Free State. We are heading into tough times, and government has a constitutional mandate to ensure delivery of quality services to all.

The DA will support any positive measures that seek to prioritise spending in such a manner that will improve the living conditions of all our people in the province.