Office furniture takes precedence over Social Welfare

Jane Sithole, MPL

Spokesperson on Health and Social Development:

The department of Social Development has traded in social welfare for office furniture.

This became apparent after the department realigned its budget during the annual budget adjustment late last year. The department’s approved budget for the programme of Social Welfare Services was decreased by a staggering over R54 million.

The programme of Social Welfare Services is aimed at helping organisations in the province that assist the government in looking after the aged, disabled, sick and destitute. These organisations will now be forced to either close their doors or look elsewhere for funding.

Mpumalanga has the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in South Africa while Gert Sibande District Municipality has the highest prevalence rate of any district in the country. However, despite this fact, the department slashed the budget for the HIV and AIDS sub programme to R44 million, which is R18 million less than the previous financial year which ending March 2014.

Social Relief, a sub-programme designed to temporarily provide assistance to persons in dire material need, is virtually non-existent this financial year with the department spending a mere R9 million compared to last financial year’s R45,5 million. This begs the question whether the R36 million that was cut this year was due to there being no election taking place this year?

Interestingly, Social Development HOD, N Mlangeni has approved the purchase of office furniture worth R27 million, giving rise to the notion that this department would rather sit in expensive chairs while communities in desperate need of assistance remain neglected.

To this end, the DA will put questions to Social Development MEC, Nomsa Mtsweni asking her to explain the reasons for the decrease in the social welfare services budget? Which NGO’s have been affected by this decrease? Which ones have had to close down and why their support was reduced or withheld?

We will also ask the MEC for a detailed breakdown of the furniture that was purchased including which offices the furniture was purchased for and who the suppliers are and the costs?

The department of Social Development cannot be investing in comfortable furniture while thousands of ill, aged and disabled people struggle to make ends meet.