The economic downturn faced by countries around the world is vividly clear, with a huge impact on the budget outlook of our 2023/24 Appropriation Bill.
In addition to the financial drawbacks caused by the outbreak of the Coronavirus that hollowed out our finances, as a Province we have the added financial burdens caused by the 2022 floods, and the disastrous social unrest that devastated our Province.
These three incidents took us many steps back with regard to our ability to provide services to the people of our Province. What remains of importance to the governance of our Province is integrity of spending and an unwavering commitment to clean, corruption-free, and compliant application and monitoring of systems. The absence of political will and administrative astuteness to adhere to these principles will cause the Province serious financial burdens.
The total appropriation being considered for 2023/24 Budget of R146 167 730 billion, decreasing from an allocation of R146 633 085 billion in the previous year, is cause for concern.
As the IFP, we share the concerns raised in respect of government departments failing to reach their own set targets of collections. We share the concerns raised of uncertainty with regard to many entities resulting from the non-finalisation of the rationalisation of entities.
It is of concern that many government departments lament issues of under-funding when the same departments reflect inability to spend funds allocated to them in a given financial year.
Just recently, on the 30th of March 2023, the Province was considering adjustments to the Budget whereby the EDTEA surrendered R95 million back to Provincial Treasury for reprioritisation because of a projected failure to spend. Provincial Treasury surrendered R47 million. Sport, Arts and Culture (Vote 10) surrendered R36.887 million. Transport surrendered R200 million. This reflects of poor planning and poor implementation of the very scarce resources we have by the aforementioned departments.
The IFP shares the concerns raised in the Finance Committee Report of government departments failing to fill vacant posts on time with funds made available to them for such. Failure to employ staff when funds have been allocated is a serious indictment on the progress of the Province. It results in poor service delivery because of a shortage of staff. It also adds to high unemployment rate levels, which the country is battling to minimise. It reflects an attitude of a government that does not care about the unemployment plight of citizens.
Of course, we cannot just employ for the sake of employing.
However, figures of 118 vacant posts in the Office of the Premier, where only 50 were filled for the financial year, are unacceptable. Agriculture failed to fill 136 vacant funded posts. Provincial Treasury under-spent its budget by R79 million, due to the non-filling of funded vacant posts. Both Transport and Social Development have remained with the critical posts of CFO vacant for a long time, and this is not acceptable.
Some departments are culprits of failing to spend conditional grants and failing to report spending appropriately.
This has resulted in conditional grants being reduced in some departments. The EPWP Integrated Grant for Provinces has been reduced for Education, from R2.193 million to R1.985 million. The EPWP Integrated Grant for Provinces has been reduced for Health, from R11.736 million to R8.614 million. The EPWP Grant for Provinces has been reduced for Public Works, from R8.042 to R3.897 million. All these self-inflicted reductions are unacceptable, and they are a loss to the people of the Province.
The economic pressures experienced by the Province in both Education and Health, year-on-year, must be resolved.
The situation is dire at the Department of Education, which is unable to provide relief to educators by providing substitute educators for those on leave. Schools were devastated by civil unrest and floods, but even today, in some schools, the damage that occurred has not been attended to.
The Department of Health still suffers due to the exorbitant cost of civil claims from unscrupulous lawyers and claimants. As a result of these shenanigans at both Health and Education, a huge chunk of the Budget goes to COE and very little is left for service delivery provision for the people of the Province. This is an unhealthy situation for the survival and progress of our Province.
On behalf of the IFP, I want to reiterate in this Honourable House what the IFP has stated before: at the Constitution making process from 1994 to 1996, the IFP strongly advocated for provinces to be allocated some taxation powers, for them to be able to be self-sustainable. Provinces must be given some taxation powers so that they can face the challenges that are confronting them.
In conclusion, Hon. Speaker, the truth be told: coalition governments have come to stay.
The IFP is open to coalition discussions with any political party that is willing to start preparing for the future now. We do not want to be found unprepared and experience what we see in the Gauteng Metros of COJ, Ekurhuleni, and Tshwane: unstable governments.
The facts must be communicated correctly, the IFP is open to the principle of coalition discussion, but not to an alliance. We will contest elections as an independent political party, with its own identity, values, principles, and manifesto.
The ruling party has failed our people in KZN and South Africa. Unemployment, crime, loadshedding and inflation are on the increase, year after year, under the watch of the ANC – and as a direct result of its failures.
The people of KwaZulu-Natal continue to demonstrate – each time there is a by-election – that they are tired the ANC. Rest assured, in 2024 the people of Kwazulu-Natal will bring the IFP back to power for clean, accountable governance, and a government that delivers full and efficient services.
I thank you.