KwaZulu-Natal Legislature General Budget Debate – Friday 14th May 2021 – Pietermaritzburg

Hon VF Hlabisa – President of the IFP and Leader of the Official Opposition

Hon Speaker
Hon Premier and
Hon Members

On behalf of the IFP I record once again our deepest condolences to the Royal family due to the recent departure of Her Royal Highness Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu. The IFP welcomes and pledge its support and co-operation with His Majesty King Misuzulu kaZwelithini. The IFP also welcome the intervention by the Premier for the ratification / correction of the issue around the safety and security of His Majesty the King Misuzulu KaZwelithini because this issue of safety and security did not come out of the blue. We commend the role His Royal Highness the Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi plays in ensuring the smooth transition to the installation of His Majesty the King Misuzulu KaZwelithini.

The KwaZulu Natal budget 2021/22 is getting considered under abnormal circumstances that befell the country, with the outbreak of Coronavirus. This situation has caused changes throughout the world in the way we do things. These changes also mean changes in the way governments allocate finances for services to the people. Many have referred to these changes as the new normal. What we need to ask ourselves as this legislature is whether our 2021/22 budget has taken into consideration the effects of the new normal. In some instances, the new normal has demanded for more allocation of funds in areas that might have looked as areas for low spending under normal circumstances. In other instances, it has demanded that areas which may have been considered to be of high spending be cut down dramatically.

The outbreak of the pandemic has caused some of the factories and industries either to shut down, to downscale on production, to cut down on exports and imports, or to cut down on the hours of work. All these have resulted in job losses and income losses by many and greater reliance by more citizens upon the social services of the country. This means a much more increased social spending in the budget of our country. Many people of our country who may have been self-reliant before the outbreak of the pandemic, have lost opportunities for them to trade their skills and talents. We have seen this happening in the entertainment industry and in the sports arenas. This has meant that governments have had to change focus in order to provide relief measures and relief packages for these industries. Government itself, and many other industries, has had to change the way of doing things. These changes have affected many, whose income generation was based on government operations.

The big question that we need to ask ourselves as this legislature is whether the 2021/22 budget under consideration is indeed compliant to these many changes. Unfortunately, our attention to these considerations is limited by what we can afford to do, what we have on hand at a given time and what legislation allows us to do as a provincial legislature. Whilst we do have room to can maneuver, our movement within this room is highly restricted. However, this does not mean that nothing at all can be done.

On behalf of the IFP, Hon Speaker, I want to begin by contesting that our budgeting that we consider as proposals from departments is not realistic proposals that look closely into the current challenges. On the 26 March 2021 when the Hon MEC Dube-Ncube, MEC for Finance, tabled the 2020/21 Third Adjustment Appropriation Bill before this Hon House, the MEC indicated that the bill was allocating R790 million to the department of education to ease spending pressures in that department. How was this R790 million sourced? The Hon MEC indicated that this money was surrendered back to Provincial Treasury by 12 departments that projected under-spending in their 2020/21 budget allocations.

The issue here is not about allocating the much-needed financial resources to education, Hon Speaker. But what this under-spending by all these departments and reallocation indicates is that, as this Legislature, we may have over-allocated funds to areas that were not primary areas of need and that we may have under-allocated funds to areas that needed more than the allocations given. If these scenarios are not attended to and monitored closely, Hon Finance Chairperson, we will see MECs pleading for more funds as we deal with this budget here. But at the end of this financial year in March 2022, the same MECs will be coming back to this legislature to surrender unspent funds.

As a matter of principle, the IFP wishes to stress to government at all levels that the R350 social relief package that was initiated for the unemployed individuals of our country needs to be continued. The country is not out of the woods yet in respect of the Covid-19 economic challenges and its impact on the social lives of our people. Those people who did not have a job then still do not have a job today. Those people who lost jobs because of the economic conditions of Covid-19 then are still not likely to find a new job today. In fact, more companies are still continuing to shed.

The discipline of spending with integrity, honesty and value for money still has not resonated with our administrations in the province, Hon Speaker. The drama and shame that followed the Covid-19 spending with some of our departments indicates that the culture of self-centeredness at the expense of the government purse and the plight of our people is much entrenched within some government officials. It is for this reason that the IFP is so concerned about the slow pace of some departments in dealing with consequence management, and the very light punitive measures and sentences given to wrong doers as punishment. As a deterrent to the actions of these people who help themselves to government funds, punishment must begin to fit the crime. Monies stolen must be recouped. Prison sentences must apply regularly to government officials who embezzle funds.

The IFP is also concerned with under-spending that I spoke about earlier on, especially in the greatest areas of need like Transport. The anticipated under-spending that was projected to R1.6 billion for 2020/21 at this department is much cause for concern. This happens against the background of so many roads in the province which need to be rehabilitated, to be upgraded, remain incomplete for more than ten years for instance P451, roads to be tarred, the pot-holes that need to be fixed, bridges that were washed away which need to be redone, including new bridges that need to be built and new roads that are highly needed in many areas of the province. Government projects also need to satisfy the aspect of value for money. Government should stop to be the terrain where mediocre performance gets rewarded and an area for the get rich quick schemes of the chancers and under performers. Our administrations in all departments must instill a sense of professionalism in government work for everybody.

The economic conditions of the country, especially the impact of Covid-19 to our finances, have necessitated budget cuts in almost all departments. Treasury reports that in the 2021/22 of this MTEF, our province has lost R7. 150 bn. This is a massive loss, Hon Speaker in just one financial year of the MTEF. All departments have also suffered massive cuts effected in the conditional grants. As a result, the total budget appropriated for 2020/21 which was R137 054 492 billion, declined massively for 2021/22 to R133 670 022 billion. This massive decline calls for high levels of prudence from our departments. It entails strict adherence to Annual Performance Plans and strict compliance with all spending legislation in question. This decline also means that the speed with which province had set up in the delivery of services to the people will be affected in certain areas. This will affect the province’s social contract with communities. Hence the need for prudence, for integrity, for honesty and value for money so that we all can account properly for every cent spent.

So far, the IFP appreciates the handling of requests by Treasury when departments apply for irregular expenditure to be condoned. Mere applications for condoning and write off cannot be made an easy way out for wrong doing. We appreciate the stance of the department in calling for proper accountability and proper assessment of these matters. In the same vein, the requests for virements need to be closely looked into so that they do not become an area for abuse and fiscal dumping.

Hon Speaker, I trust that the changed circumstances will invoke a new sense of service to the people amongst our public personnel: a sense of service that is truly guided by the principles of Ubuntu and the genuine principles of Batho-Pele. Indications at our national Treasury are that the national budget of the country is comprised of more than 60% debt. This is a national debt that future generations of our country will be paying for decades or if not centuries to come. In spending their money today, we dare not let our guard down to subject them to more unnecessary pressures which will make the country to be perpetually reliant and dependent to financial institutions for unending borrowing.

I thank you.