KWAZULU NATAL LEGISLATURE – 2021/22 BUDGET DEBATE – VOTE 6 BUDGET DEBATE ON THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE -VOTE 6

FRIDAY 14TH MAY 2021 – PIETERMARITZBURG
By – Hon VF Hlabisa – President of the IFP and Leader of the Official Opposition

Chairperson
Hon Premier
Hon Finance MEC Dube-Ncube
Hon Members
Let me begin by conveying the IFP’s good wishes to the Muslim community as they are today celebrating the festival of EID after a month long fasting. EID MUBARAK to the Muslim community.

Hon RZP Zulu, the people of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa have more than the ANC as their choice. In KwaZulu-Natal the IFP is the hope of the people of this province and their alternative government. This was demonstrated clearly in 2019 during the general elections and still on 27 October 2021 Local Government Elections people will show that now their hope is the IFP as the IFP will win more municipalities.

The department of Finance of any organization is the finance engine room and finance power house of the institution in ensuring the financial stability of the organization. As the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, we rely upon the Finance department to ensure that there is overall compliance to the finance laws and legislation of the country. The department of finance is the overall overseer of adherence to legislation.

Whilst as members, we are the primary role players of oversight over the departments but in relation to the finances, the department of finance is our partner in this role. Whenever something is suspected to be brewing up in a department over the inadequate utilization of finances, we would expect our department of finance to be amongst the forerunner whistle-blowers.

This view is highlighted in the department’s motto: “The Guardian of Public Purse” and the commitment by the MEC under the theme of making the rand go an extra mile.

It is pleasing to note that for the past eleven consecutive years, our provincial department of finance has scored repeated clean audit reports from the Auditor General. The IFP commends this as leading by example. But it is unfortunate that the same action has not replicated to all other departments of the province. In our province, very few departments have been able to achieve the objective of clean audit reports. For this shortcoming, our provincial department of finance has to also share the responsibility as most common reasons cited by the AG in most audit reports are:
Non-compliance with legislation, and
Weak consequence management.

Notwithstanding what the Honorable Premier said recently, whether on the basis of the SIU recommendation or the study, it was unfortunate, that the province saw the provincial unit on Forensic Investigations being relocated from the Provincial Treasury which is well capacitated and with sound financial management record to The Office of the Premier which unfortunately is understaffed and with less capacity. The IFP believes that the Forensic Investigations Unit was very important to the department of finance on its mandate to enforce compliance with the finance laws of the country. We are yet to see the output on this Unit relocated from Provincial Treasury.

As I said during the General Debate, the IFP expresses appreciation to the department of finance for its objective and non-compromising stance over the provincial departments in respect of the refusal to write off irregular expenditures unreasonably. We also express the same view in respect of refusing to grant departments condolements on irregular expenditure that has not been properly explained and appropriately accounted for. The country and province is in a dire state of finances. Therefore, handling our provincial finances with utmost care and sensitivity is of great importance. The IFP urges the department of finance to look closely at the reliability of the budget proposals that the departments submit to various structures during the course of the year.

When the financial year draws to a closure with so much of anticipated under expenditure as it has happened, it means that a review of processes and operations is necessary.

Of the eight KZN provincial government priorities, one of them is ‘Building a caring and incorruptible’ province. This department is the champion of this priority. The events of the last financial year in government spending by some departments and some municipalities lives much to be desired in relation to this priority. The IFP believes that the department of finance needs to be strengthened and capacitated much more so that it can ably fulfil this watchdog role over our provincial finances. Therefore, the budget cuts that we are noting in some important areas of operation such as Internal Audit and Municipal Finance Management, are matters of concern.

The department is also expected to give support to municipalities in a number of ways as its mandate. Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal are struggling financially and operationally. The IFP pleads with the department to consider playing this role in a way that will benefit our municipalities in their areas of need and weakness. Most of the municipalities in the province are rural and suffer a lot of brain drain. Most municipalities do not have a rate base and rely solely on equitable share funding and government grants.

Besides the department of finance exercising this role alone, our own provincial portfolio committees on finance and Cogta must also account about this situation.

The IFP supports the presentation by the MEC and will work together with everyone in this house to make the province of KwaZulu-Natal better every year and every day to make the lives of our better.

I thank you.