Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, during the debate on the tabling of the 2013 Mpumalanga Appropriation Bill, 2013.
When considering any public budget, one does so with an expectation that the consequences of government spending would result directly into the betterment of the public good through increased service delivery.
One must also consider financial efficiency, transparency, degrees of accountability, past track record – but most importantly the extent to which the budget serves to represent the needs and aspirations of ordinary residents, and how the implementation of such a budget would improve the quality of their lives.
Over the past weeks, the DA supported individual departments when their budgets were tabled. However, when seen as a collective, we have serious reservations about the extent to the R33 billion being appropriated, will reach their intended destination.
This budget is neither pro-poor nor pro-delivery. Instead it is big on fat and small on outcomes. It is a budget that will serve to keep an oversized ineffective bureaucracy afloat. In the financial year ahead our government will achieve little more than simply funding itself. What we funded last year, we will fund this year, and as I said during the initial introduction of the budget, the financial priorities of government lack vision and are uncreative and uninspiring. As in the past, little progress will be made to bring about the realisation of a better life for all.
This budget in its entirety misses the crucial opportunities to bring about economic growth, and reflects a severe underinvestment in those disciplines and industries which hold the greatest growth potential. This includes agriculture, tourism and small business.
With our provincial economic growth set to be in the region of 2,9%,and given that South Africa’s national growth was less than 1% in the first quarter, it is clear that under ANC control, those living in poverty are set to remain exactly where they are.
It clearly is business as usual in ANC governance as government continues to pay lip service to youth unemployment.
The failure to prioritise the implementation of a youth wage subsidy in any department reflects clearly the disdain with which the ANC views the plight of jobless young people.
It is absurd, that before we even approve this budget today, departments are already issuing instruction on austerity measures and implementing cost curtailment measures on departmental budgets tabled in this house only days ago. How is it possible that within days of tabling a department budget, supposedly mirrored by a thoroughly thought-through strategic plan, the department is unable to fund the very things they told this house they would do.
Most notably is the Department of Education who has instituted a moratorium on the appointment of all staff in the province. It is a disgrace that our government is willing to compromise on the future of our children in this manner. How do we expect to teach without sufficient teachers?
But I’ll tell you why: Because the Department of Education has over R100 million in accruals, a practice that has become a norm in this department, and while the department claims to be serious about cutting costs one must ask why the MEC continues – as many other departments – in placing expensive, full page self-praising adverts in newspapers like Mpumalanga Mirror.
The DA simply cannot support the continuation of this financial irresponsibility.
Overall the massive accruals, rolling over from the previous financial year will undoubtedly burden the cash flow of departments, with over R658 million having to be spent on past expenses. This not only amplifies the lack of disciplined financial control within government, but exposes the inability of the ANC to plan, budget and implement accordingly.
It is a fact that the ANC and its administration sees this budget as a bottomless pit of wealth to plundered and spent as if there is no tomorrow. And let us not for a moment think they care where the next stash of money comes from, because the culture of accruing funds has become so instilled that it passes annually unchallenged.
But, apart from the massive amounts of money wasted annually by non-essentials, poor planning and irresponsible financial management, nothing amplifies the ANC governments disregard to deliver services more than the millions surrendered to national treasury in the last financial year.
It goes beyond comprehension, how the ANC can continue to mislead the public of Mpumalanga by claiming cash shortages and budget pressures as reasons for non-delivery and development, when over R117 million in grants had to be returned to treasury.
It is a disgrace that while hospitals in our province are literally falling apart, over R96 million of the hospital revitalisation grant was not spent. But more horrifically, while thousands of our province’s people continue to live in shacks – without water, electricity or flushing toilets, over R11 million of the human settlement development grant was not spent, depriving no less than 300 poor families in Mpumalanga the chance of owning a home.
Given the plight of poverty, the extent of unemployment and despair of so many of our province’s people, one must question some of the extravagant projects to be implemented.
How do we justify spending R1,8 billion on the establishment of a cultural hub and a staggering R5,2 billion on a high altitude sporting centre, when not only could these projects be delivered considerably cheaper, but so many of our province’s people continue to suffer in poverty.
As we head to the 2014 General Elections we held our breath to see if the ANC will use this last financial year to deliver large-scale services and claim a delivery record in the face of the electorate, but, given what we have before us it is safe to say that is not the case.
In the year ahead, those well-connected to government will continue to secure tenders and accumulate wealth, while those who are poor will remain poor, while those who are unemployed have little prospect of finding a job. And while the ANC cuddles up in comfort of government thousands of children in our province will go to sleep hungry.