By Hon H Motala, IFP MPL, KZN Legislature
Madame Speaker, The Inkatha Freedom Party welcomes the provisions made in the Adjustments Estimate Bill that seeks to provide departments and entities with the financial resources to deliver on their respective mandates.
Whilst we welcome these provisions, we must raise our concerns regarding the many instances of under-expenditure reported by many departments. The Hon MEC’s speech states on page 3 states that this province on its underspent 2014/2015 budget by R443.887million. It is even more serious that we have underspent on Conditional Grants to the tune of R19.655. This underspending on Conditional Grants includes underspending on Community Libraries (R14.199 million) when there is a dire need for library services in communities across the province in view of the fact that literacy levels among our children are very low. Underspending with regard to the National Health Insurance (R.449million) is unexcuseable in view of the poor state of health services to the majority of the people of the province.
Madame Speaker, the IFP is pleased that in view of the serious drought facing our province, there is an allocation of R33million to COGTA to assist with water provision in the Umkhanyakude District. We welcome this injection of funds and request that funds be made available to assist other drought-stricken districts also and not only Umhkanyakude.
With regard to the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, it of concern to us that Programme 2 : Agriculture is substantially underspent by R63.373 million while food security in our province is under threat. As the political head, the MEC must take full responsibility for the reported underspending on Conditional Grants of almost 66% of the mid-year projections and 92% of the total budget. This is unacceptable in view of the serious water crisis that we are facing. Madame Speaker, we note that this department is being allocated R27.720million to be used by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in its Rhino anti-poaching efforts over the next three years. We welcome this injection of funds, but we must record our concern regarding the underspending in this regard. While we continue to lament the fact that our rhinos continue to be killed, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife was allocated R19.442milion for its Rhino Security Intervention project but it has only spent R3.45million of this allocation. We then ask the question: Is this Department serious about protecting rhinos or is this government just paying lip service to this global concern. Ezemvelo is also accused of grossly underspending on its rolled over funds and this cannot be accepted as it shows that this entity does not have the capacity to manage its affairs. We hope that the additional funds will be properly utilised to protect these endangered animals.
Rural Development component of this Department still remains largely an unfunded mandate. It is encouraging to note that an amount of R50.506million has been allocated to this department and the IFP would like to see that more funding is made available in order to attend to issues around rural development. One would expect that in view of the vast rural arears that make up KwaZulu-Natal, there should have been more progress in having this Programme up and running. We cannot accept that after all this time this component has not been fully established. This component was transferred from Office of the Premier : Vote 1 but now it has to find its own funding.
Madame Speaker, the IFP is pleased that some attention is being paid to sanitation at our schools. This is an issue that we have been complaining about for a long time now and we are encouraged that an amount of R150million is being made available for this purpose to address the current backlog of 741 schools without proper sanitation and the more than 500 schools that do not have proper water supply. We must, however record our concern that while children across our province come to school hungry and depend on the National School Nutrition Programme to provide them with a meal, the Department of Education stands accused of underspending of 77.2% on its NSNP grant at mid-term. This is criminal and must not be allowed to continue unchallenged. Why must our children go hungry when there is money allocated to provide them with a meal? Why is it that after all this time this department cannot get its act together with regard to the nutrition programme.
Madame Speaker, the IFP notes that R68million is being made available to the Department of Health to assist with its medico-legal claims. While this department is projecting to overspend its budget by almost R802million by year end, it is also expected to spend over R200million on medico-legal claims which could have been avoided if there was proper administration and supervision at all health care facilities in our province. This R68million allocation will not go far enough to assist the department in regard to its medico-legal claims which are escalating all the time. It is about time that health care personnel and administrators be held personally liable for legal claims arising out of their negligence. Only when this happens will they begin to take their work seriously and give proper medical care to our people. For as long as the tax payer picks up the legal costs, negligence and irresponsible conduct will continue thereby placing peoples’ lives at risk and incurring more financial burden for the department.
One wonders why the much-talked about National Health Insurance is floundering in its implementation across our province. It must be of concern for all of us, Madame Speaker that the NHI grant has been underspent by about 70% at the time of reporting. It is even more serious because this underspending has been occurring over the past two financial years also. One wonders if this department has the foresight and will to ensure that the NHI becomes a reality in the near future. According to the report the NHI budget included a roll-over amount of almost R1.5million. It is common knowledge that funds cannot be rolled-over indefinitely and as a province we could end up losing such allocation.
Madame Speaker, when one considers the poor state of many of our public health care facilities, one wonders why is it that the Health Revitalisation Grant that has almost R40million allocated for improving infrastructure, is being spent at such a slow rate. It was reported that the department will only be able to spend R13million of this amount by year end. Infrastructure at many of our hospitals are in dire need of repairs and renovation but this department is unable to utilise the budgeted funds to improve the conditions of the buildings and hospital facilities. Why should health care workers and the public be faced with crumbling infrastructure when there are funds available to effect renovations?
In view of the serious backlogs in the provision of decent housing for the people of our province, the IFP is pleased that R230.924million is being made jointly to the Human Settlements Department and to COGTA. We hope that while houses are being constructed, the allocation of houses to people will not be politically driven as we have reported previously in this House. Both these departments must understand that these houses are funded through public funds and therefore the allocation of houses must be done on a needs basis and not on political affilation.
Madame Speaker, a common trend that was noted from the various departments that appeared before the Finance Committee, was the underspending on specifically and exclusively appropriated funds. The IFP finds this rather strange in view of the fact that these funds have been allocated for a specific purpose which purpose would have been deemed necessary. But now that the funds have been allocated, those departments do not see the need to spend those funds or do not have will to do so. Whatever the reason, it is unacceptable to tie-up much needed funds in projects when they are not utilised and could be channeled into other more urgent projects.
We view the trend of underspending in a very serious light. It indicates that some departments are not able to manage their spending programmes and are ineffective in keeping track of their expenditure timelines. We are concerned that should time run out for this financial year, some departments will resort to fiscal dumping in order to spend the reminder of their budgets. This could result in wasteful expenditure that will result in audit queries.