Hon. Speaker, Hon. Members and Distinguished Guests
The IFP notes the R1.9 billion budget allocated to the Department of Public Works in this current financial year. However, a few weeks ago, a great calamity befell our province, causing disastrous and catastrophic loss of life and extensive destruction of infrastructure. Preliminary assessments are showing that it will cost billions to fix the damage.
After the subsequent declaration of a State of Disaster by President Ramaphosa, the IFP calls upon the President, National Treasury and Public Works to urgently avail financial resources for the infrastructure recovery effort to fix public infrastructure that was damaged by floods in both Provinces.
Under the Education Department alone, we have concerns, as 72 flood-hit schools in KZN remain inaccessible. About 630 schools were affected by the disaster, with 124 being seriously damaged. Primary figures indicated that about R442 million would be needed to fix the affected schools and we need all the help from the stakeholders to get back to normality.
Hon. Chair, the IFP further acknowledges the allocation of R1.07 billion towards Programme 2, responsible for the provision and maintenance of property in the province. We call upon the Department to fully let out all unused government properties and vacant land as mentioned in the APP.
Additionally, we reiterate our call to the Department to ensure that there is security for public buildings that may not yet be occupied and that these buildings must eventually be fully utilised, to avoid wasteful expenditure. This will ensure that public buildings are not hijacked by those who want to acquire properties free-of-charge and that they are not vandalised.
The challenges of outsourcing services for the assessment of public properties, which in turn delays timeline targets, is disturbing to us as the IFP, given the percentage of the budget that goes to the compensation of employees, which indicates to us that the Department has a large pool of employees who can conduct the majority of the work internally. Therefore, we express concern about the Department’s inability to perform these tasks.
The Department should be able to execute these services internally, rather than outsourcing, which in turn delays the process. Expenditure on consultants and outsourced services is our biggest concern.
We therefore expect the Infrastructure Agency to be operational by June this financial year, to drive infrastructure projects, so that the Department remains the implementing agent of choice for all government departments.
Following on Hon. Mazibuko’s words, the IFP also noted with worry the underfunding on the EPWP programmes. The Department has set a target of 5 127 work opportunities and 1 700 FTEs to be created in 2022/23. The IFP is thus concerned about how the Department set this target of work opportunities without having funding in place for them, as it alluded that it can only create 990 opportunities with the available budget of R17 million.
The Department should be realistic in its expectations so that it does not create false hopes for the vulnerable unemployed people on the ground. The issue of youth unemployment is something that our government must be extremely serious about curbing, because it is a ticking time-bomb.
We appeal to the Provincial Treasury to avail the R59 million in funding required to cover the shortfall on funding, in order to achieve this critical target, especially because the last financial year’s target was affected by the national lockdown.
We urge the Department urgently review its Budget in order to fill the 46 critical posts in this financial year 2022/23.
Percentage Preferential Procurement Spent on Female Suppliers
The IFP supports the 40% target of the Department’s procurement to be spent on female suppliers. We call upon all public institutions to ring-fence the 40% procurement budget for women-owned businesses if it is serious about closing the gender equality gap in the economic space.
Women and youth cannot be made to wait for another 200 years to realise economic freedom. We will be monitoring this target closely, to ensure that of every rand that is spent by our government in procuring goods and services, 40% goes to women entrepreneurs in their respective sectors.
In conclusion, as Hon. Mazibuko said, the IFP supports the Budget tabled by the Hon. MEC for Public Works in this House.