DA Budget Expectations: Govt must get off the gravy train

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader: Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance wants to hear a Northern Cape budget that will
deliver services to our people. We want to hear about consequences for
those who misspend public funds and for those who do not deliver what
they promise.

We must hear about cost containment strategies, limitations on luxury
spending and measures to combat corruption. The Northern Cape received
the smallest provincial allocation, which must be allocated and spent
wisely. We simply can’t afford to see public funds being squandered.
We call for the implementation of cost containment measures and the
monitoring of any excessive spending which denies services to our
people.

Over the past three years, fruitless and wasteful expenditure by
provincial departments increased by 69%. When money goes down the
drain like this, it stops service delivery. With the R66 million that
was wasted in the previous financial year alone, we could have built
660 houses or created 3 400 EPWP opportunities.

There must be consequences for officials who waste public funds or who
manipulate supply chain processes to benefit their friends and family
members. We call for the full implementation of the Public Finance
Management Act and Treasury Regulations to ensure that all public
spending meets its goal of delivering services. Provincial government
must get off the gravy train and start working for our people.

We want to hear about consequences for contractors who deliver shoddy
work, who don’t meet completion dates and who exceed budgets. We call
for the provincial government to levy fines against contractors who
don’t perform according to the bid specifications. In the 2014
financial year, for instance, the department of Education still had 54
construction projects in progress which were all scheduled to be
completed in 2012. The Kagung Clinic, the Northern Cape Theatre and
the mental health hospital also illustrates how poorly the provincial
government manages its construction contracts.

We must hear about the improvement in debt collection strategies.
Currently, 31% of departments had debt collection periods exceeding 90
days. Just as government must improve its payments and ensure all
invoices are paid within 30 days, it should also take action to recoup
all revenue due to the provincial purse.

Given the mushrooming of violent service delivery protests across the
province, we also want to know how municipalities will be capacitated
to deliver a better quality of service to its residents.
We also want to hear how the provincial government will retain
professional staff, especially doctors and nurses. The mandate to
combat climate change must be funded properly and the management of
disaster relief in the province must be improved. We want to hear how
learner transport will be funded and service providers monitored to
ensure all our children get to school safely and on time.

We call on the MEC of Finance to deliver a budget that will show how
the financial management in the province will improve. Without a
continued and sustained improvement in the financial management of
provincial departments, service delivery will not improve.

EC budget comment: Poor stewardship and corruption erodes limited resources

Bobby Stevenson (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Finance:

The Eastern Cape budget for 2014/15 was tabled in the Bhisho legislature by Finance and Provincial Expenditure MEC Sakhumzi Somyo this morning. 

Below is comment from the DA, official opposition in legislature. 

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There is nothing to celebrate in this budget.  Poor stewardship of the province’s finances erodes our limited resources which is compounded by rampant corruption that did not receive a mention.   The province is wobbling along a fiscal tightrope, due to the percentage decline in our equitable share, with the budget increasing by 4.6%, which is below inflation.   This means we need to do more with less.  The full implication of this issue was not adequately addressed in the budget.

The DA is disappointed that there were no game-changer announcements.

A DA government would free up at least R2 billion of the existing budget in our first year of office which could be utilised to improve infrastructure and stimulate economic growth.    Sadly, there is a 20% decline in the budget allocated to Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The money would come from a combination of the following sources:

  • 6000 double parked teachers which cost the province R1.8 billion per year;
  • A saving of R1.96 billion a year by offering non-core staff over 60 years of age, retirement packages;
  • Eradicating corruption and irregular expenditure which cost the province R2.45 billion in the 2013/14 financial year;
  • We would also make saving from the excessive amounts spent on travel and accommodation R429 million in 2013/14 financial year (25% of all provinces);
  • The above market rentals which the province pays;
  • The excessive cost of infrastructure due to the incapacity of Public Works:  we pay R11.6 million per kilometre for roads where the Western Cape is R2.189 million; our province spends 60% more than if the national department builds the same school; and a huge amount of funding is wasted on poorly built houses and in the Eastern Cape 135 000 homes need to be rectified; and
  • Savings from excessive use of consultants.

We are disappointed that the Human Settlements Conditional grant has declined by R200 million and that the provincial roads maintenance grant has remained static.  We remain hopeful that there will be an additional allocation for rural roads which will assist in uplifting our economy and rural development.

We welcome the increase the Community Library Service Grant, which is up by 40% as well as the big increase in the Education Infrastructure Grant, also up by 40%.

Unless the province makes the right policy choices that will improve the climate for economic growth and job creation we will not win the battle against unemployment.

Despite promises, construction of Moloto Rail Corridor remains uncertain

James Masango MP

Provincial Chairperson: Mpumalanga:

On Friday, Premier Mabuza announced that the Moloto Rail Corridor Development programme had been approved and was ready to proceed. He also went on to detail how the Moloto Rail Corridor would be a catalyst for stimulating economic growth and job creation.

However, it appears that the construction of the Moloto Rail Corridor is in actual fact a pipe dream as during the tabling of the 2015/16 budget speech, Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, allocated R1.1 billion for the upgrade of road Moloto Road to improve its safety and mobility.

The funds to upgrade the Moloto Road have been allocated to the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) which will, over the next three years, rehabilitate the road and incorporate it into the portfolio of nontoll roads.

In recent media reports, Department of Transport spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso, stated that the upgrade of the road did not mean that the plan for an integrated rapid rail system on the Moloto development corridor had been shelved, but funding constraints and the carnage on the road meant that road safety had to be prioritised in the first phase.

This means that, while Sanral sets out to execute its task of upgrading the road, the actual Moloto Rail Corridor that the people of Thembisile Hani and Dr JS Moroka municipality were promised and have been waiting for, for over a decade will not materialise in the near future. The economic growth and job opportunities promised by Premier Mabuza are also unlikely to materialise.

If the government is unable to deliver on its more than a decade old promise to the people of Mpumalanga, they should come clean instead of attempting to mislead them. To this end, we will write parliamentary questions to Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters asking for a detailed plan of the Moloto Rail Corridor Development programme. We will also request our colleagues at the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature to put questions to the Premier in order for him to clarify his statement.

While the safety of Moloto Road users is vital, stalling the construction of the railway line will not benefit the road users. Until the railway is developed, Moloto road will continue to be burdened with a heavy amount of traffic along with countless unreliable busses.

It’s imperative that government delivers on its promise of a railway line as to improve the lives of Moloto Road users. The DA will monitor the upgrade of the Moloto road closely and ensure that when complete, it does become a nontoll road as promised.

EC budget expectations: Measures needed for honest, efficient and caring government

Bobby Stevenson (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Finance:

The budget for the Eastern Cape for 2015/16 will be tabled in the provincial legislature by Finance and Provincial Expenditure MEC Sakhumzi Somyo on Friday, 6 March 2015. 

Below are the DA’s expectations of issues that the MEC should focus on in his speech.

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EC budget expectations: Measures needed for honest, efficient and caring government:

The Eastern Cape MEC for Finance and Provincial Expenditure, Sakhumzi Somyo, must announce concrete steps to put this province on the high road to honest, efficient and caring government  when he introduces the provincial budget on Friday in Bhisho. The Democratic Alliance expects bold pronouncements to clamp down on corruption and stringent austerity measures to reign in our high expenditure on non-core items such as travel, accommodation and endless workshops.

Unless the MEC tackles the issue of our bloated bureaucracy which consumes 65% of the budget, our province will continue to go backwards as far as service delivery is concerned. Any increase in civil servant’s salaries beyond inflation poses a grave risk to the province’s financial position.

It is not fair for taxpayers to pay more and more and get less and less in return. This is making people angry with the Bhisho government, as they feel betrayed by on-going wastage and corruption.   This is particularly so at local government level, where stringent provincial oversight is necessary.

The budget will be introduced in the context of a slow-growth economy which has resulted in below- inflation increases in our conditional grants and equitable share.   For the 2015/16 year the equitable share of R54, 312 billion amounts to an increase of R2, 158 billion or a mere 4%.  Conditional grants go up from R9, 846 billion to R10, 060 billion, which is a mere 2%. These figures are well below inflation (gazetted in the Division of Revenue Bill).  These figures, together with own revenue, should result in a budget in the region of R66 billion.

It is expected that 75% of the budget will go to education and health.  Our schools and hospitals are crying out for well-spent improvements.   We are hoping that tourism funding will be improved so it can become more of a game changer for economic growth.  We will also be watching closely to see if funding improves for scholar transport and roads.  Our learners and rural community cannot be left in the lurch.

The MEC must make the right policy choices that will improve the climate for economic growth and job creation in this province.  A job is more than a salary – it provides dignity and opportunity for people to get ahead in life. The people of this province deserve a budget that creates the hope that tomorrow can be better than yesterday.

NC – People paying for poor management

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader:

The Democratic Alliance believes that the budget of Minister Nene seeks to find the solution for economic problems in the wrong place.

The solution to fixing the economy is not in the pockets of the poor.

It lies in addressing the poor management of available funds.

The short term solution to our economic problems is to cut the high costs of corruption and maladministration. In the Northern Cape, the provincial government raked up R1.8 billion in irregular, unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in 2013/14. This constitutes 15% of the entire provincial budget for that year. We could have delivered so many services to our people with those funds.

For example, it is enough to run all District Health and Emergency Medical Services for a whole year. The money is there, but it is being misspent.

The long term solution is to create an economy which can grow and sustain the creation of jobs. An economic model based on the state as the largest employer is simply not sustainable.

The Democratic Alliance has an alternative budget which frees up R9.3 billion for SMME development. In our economic model, we look towards entrepreneurs as the largest creators of jobs and not the state.

The Northern Cape will be hit hard by the tax increases announced yesterday. The tax hikes means that funds which could have spent in the economy, stimulating growth and the creation of jobs, will now be sucked into a black hole of government’s financial mismanagement. We will feel the increased transport costs affecting the price of food, which will in turn threaten food security. Given the fact that drought on our borders is threatening to halve the mealie crops for the year, this is bad news.