Let me begin by wishing the South African Muslim Community a joyous, peaceful, and prosperous Eid Mubarak 2022.
When the Hon. MEC for Finance presented the KwaZulu-Natal 2022/23 proposed Budget in the House on 9 March 2022, it was before the tragedy of the disastrous floods that engulfed our province about three weeks ago and caused tremendous damage to the lives of our people; damage to property, households, businesses and the whole infrastructure of the province. Service delivery has been severely affected and this will remain so in some parts of the province for a very long time to come. This has obviously presented a big challenge to the projected spending areas that were presented by the MEC to the House. Hopefully, the intervention by national government, through the declaration of the National State of Disaster in KwaZulu-Natal, will help alleviate and make up for the spending areas for which KwaZulu Natal-will now be financially incapacitated to attend to.
The recent tragedy in the province means that financially, the province now faces triple challenges of recovery that must be catered for in the budget: recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic; recovery from the provincial July 2021 violent unrest; and now, the April 2022 floods. Therefore, despite welcoming the proposed Budget tabled by the MEC, one must hasten to say that it is not enough. It is obviously not up to the challenges that the province is facing. Be that as it may, the IFP supports close attention to the proposed Budget given to infrastructure spending.
The MTEF infrastructure spending amounts to R18.6 billion, R19 billion and R18.7 billion, respectively. Whilst welcoming this sizeable spending on infrastructure in the province, the IFP also raises the continuous concern of departments and entities that fail to spend allocated finances on infrastructure in a given financial year, and thus rob our people of the services and jobs due to them and the financial benefits due to businesses in the province. This must be attended to, Hon. MEC.
Another concern, Hon. MEC, is in respect of departments that fail to spend conditional grants on time and subject our province to the return of conditional grants’ funds back to the national fiscus at the end of the financial year. When this happens, this is money that is lost to the people of the province for good. Over the MTEF, conditional grants’ funding in the province amounts to R25 billion, R24.7 billion and R24.6 billion, respectively. In each financial year, this money must be spent in full. In fact, Hon. MEC, the Premier should make 100% spending of conditional grants in a given year one of the KPIs for the MECs.
The IFP notes that our provincial equitable share from national is 20.4% of the national allocation to the provinces; number two behind Gauteng province, which gets an allocation of 21.5%. We are speaking at a time when South Africa is busy with the National Census. Our people must be encouraged to ensure their registration as citizens of our province. Our provincial government should ensure that people who are in the province are counted and that no one misses this registration because such has devastating financial effects on the equitable share allocations in the future. One notes that our 2022 equitable share has increased by R7.7 billion. But this is mere recovery from the national budget cuts of the past two financial years.
National Treasury has also allocated R3.4 billion to the provincial budget, which has enabled Provincial Treasury to increase the Education allocation by R1.8 billion, Health allocation by R1.5 billion, Social Development allocation by R41.5 million and the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative was allocated R1.5 billion. Hon. MEC, we must bear in mind that with the increase in the financial allocations also comes the increase in temptation for those who have itching hands. We trust that Provincial Treasury and committee oversight programmes will also intensify their watchdog efforts over the provincial funds.
The financial year also brings with it the function shift of the ECD function, which migrates from Social Development to Education. The standard norm in government is that funds follow functions. We are hoping that this shift will not overburden Education financially and otherwise, especially in respect of proper funding of programmes. The Departments of Sport and Recreation and Arts and Culture also merged and come together as one Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. In the same vein, the IFP hopes that processes have been properly followed to ensure a smooth transition, which ensures that employees do not get unnecessarily disadvantaged by the merger; that positions that come together get considered properly in respect of ethical and logical placements; and that financial considerations of the merger do not compromise ongoing programmes of service delivery.
These are some of the issues the IFP will be monitoring closely in our oversight responsibility. This includes a transition of personnel from one era to the other in the Royal Household finances. We will ensure that His Majesty, as He ascends the throne, gets the financial recognition and respect that He deserves from the finances of the province.
The Hon. MEC tabled a proposed Budget of R143.3 billion for 2022/23. Of this, R2.9 billion are contingency reserves. It has never happened before that the province put so much money in our reserves, but the MEC explained that the actual contingency reserves are only R350 million. This explanation allayed our fears, as one was already thinking of clandestine doings. Even so, we will closely monitor that the R2.9 billion placed in the contingency reserves earmarked for the 2022 wage agreement gets spent specifically for that purpose.
It is true that unemployment has continued to rise in our province, especially youth unemployment. Economic development has continued on a downward spiral. Efforts at reviving the economy have faced one tragedy after the other, including natural phenomena. The MEC has raised the concern of the property sector that has so far failed to benefit the previously marginalised, and we support this concern as the IFP. Transformation in the property sector has been very minimal since 1994. The MEC has raised a concern that indigenous people in the townships and rural areas are only consumers of goods.
It is this kind of concerns that have led to the Gauteng province proposing a Township Economy Bill, which they are busy with in order to benefit the township economy. Before 1994 in our province, the township economy was very vibrant. Hon. Speaker, previously I ended having said, post-1994, the IFP proposed that the businesses that were affected by political violence before 1994 must be compensated. In this, we were in agreement with the ANC. This idea must be revived, Hon. MEC. The issues of illegal and undocumented immigrants, which impact negatively on the employment opportunities of South Africans, especially in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in restaurants, the hospitality industry and the construction sector must also be attended to, before it is too late to manage the adverse results.
In the early 2000s, the then-Minister of Home Affairs, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, tried to address these issues through the Immigration Bill, which unfortunately was rejected by the ruling party. Today the chickens have come home to roost on the issues he was raising that could have long been prevented. We are sitting on a ticking time bomb on this issue.
Our province also gets affected by the cross-border services and the unfunded mandates, which continue to get a blind eye from the equitable share allocations of the country to reimburse KwaZulu-Natal. These issues must continue to get a voice from the authorities of our province until national obliges.
Of the R140.3 billion, which is our 2022/23 proposed Budget, education continues to receive a lion’s share of R57.5 billion. The Education Department must spend whatever is allocated to them properly and efficiently. We all know that the challenges in our Education Department are enormous. There are also critical challenges relating to the huge spending on the Compensation of Employees’ Budget in education. However, as the IFP, we still contend that something does not add up in the figures provided by our education administration. My colleagues in the Education Portfolio Committee will address this anomaly in their departmental budget debate.
Transport infrastructure spending must be boosted. It is unacceptable, Hon. MEC, that on the P451 and P735 roads, at 50km and 40km respectively, black topping was begun in 2012 but abandoned and left uncompleted to date, which is 10 years now. This is not only poor but is also unacceptable service.
Health department services must be professionalised, improved, and be made satisfactory to the citizens of our province. In a number of Hospitals, the services are poor and unacceptable. My colleagues in the Health Departmental Budget Debate will also address this concern. When we, as the Legislature, appropriate funds to departments in a given year, it is not just a blank cheque allocation, it comes with conditions for things to happen. Let us see the change provided by the funds allocated.
Hon. MEC, let me conclude by pointing out that it is unacceptable that as of March 2022, the KwaZulu-Natal government had accumulated R48 billion irregular expenditure. In view of the circumstances and the challenges cited earlier on, the IFP appeals to the MECs to ensure that they monitor spending in their departments. Let there be value for money and application of the rule of law in spending.
I thank you.