By Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Social Development:
YESTERDAY, KZN’s Department of Social Development (DSD) announced that there is no money to pay any kind of increase to NGO’s in the province, let alone the 6% tariff increase announced by Finance MEC Belinda Scott during her Budget Speech earlier this year.
DSD MEC, Weziwe Thusi, also confirmed during the same portfolio committee that MEC Scott’s announcement had come as a surprise given that she and her department had already said there was no money for increases.
It also appears that Premier Senzo Mchunu was unaware of the hike. However Thusi attempted to absolve him with the comment that “he does not approve the budget speech or babysit his MECs”
The DA is shocked and disappointed by the announcement.
We have been driving the issue of NGO tarrif increases for the past six months. This after our own investigations found no evidence of any ring-fenced funding for increases.
The allocation of the R 63,9 million stated in MEC Scott’s 2015/16 Appropriations Act as the ring-fenced tariff increase has still not been properly explained by the department other than it will be used for ‘NGO support’.
The question is – why it has taken so long for anyone to admit that this money does not exist?
Certainly the future looks bleak for KZN NGO’s with another announcement during yesterday’s meeting that the department will be undertaking a NGO rationalisation plan which involves looking at the services offered in communities to see whether there is any duplication.
This could result in certain NGOs being consolidated or closed.
The department currently has a sub-committee which is developing policy and processes in this regard. The DA is expecting this policy to be presented to the portfolio committee once it is finalised.
The reneging on the tariff hike for NGO’s tells us two things.
It tells us that the Premier is leading a divided cabinet where MECs are not consulting each other, even on most important matters such as budgets and their allocations. And it tells us that he is not providing any oversight or leadership within his cabinet with MEC’s blaming one another for major failures.
The blame for this entire fiasco must lie at the door of the Premier who has failed to provide political leadership within his cabinet and to ensure that his MEC’s speak to each other especially on matters as important as the budget.
While the DA acknowledges that the province and the department are under great financial strain, like the rest of the country, this disaster could have been avoided.
It is obvious that the department spent recklessly in the good times without planning for the bad times. This is in stark contrast to the DA-run Western Cape where, due to proper financial planning and management, NGO tariff transfers were increased to over R1 billion.
At the end of the day it is the poor and vulnerable of KZN that will suffer as the consequences of a lack of additional funding bring a reduction of services rolled out by some NGO’s and the complete closure of others.