On Monday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) wrote to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development, Violet Siwela, to ask that Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni urgently report to the Committee to explain why her department has only allocated 8% of the funds meant as Covid-19 relief for small businesses.
The Auditor-General’s (AG) second report on the financial management of government’s Covid-19 initiatives revealed that 92% of the financial support earmarked for small businesses has not been paid out. Of the R1.4 billion that was budgeted for support to qualifying small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) affected by Covid-19, only 8% of the funds have been spent, meaning that almost R1.3 billion of relief lies unspent.
Minister Ntshavheni has a responsibility to account to Parliament for the reasons as to why the Department of Small Business Development has been sluggish in allocating the relief funds that are so desperately needed by struggling SMMEs across the country. The DA will also seek clarity surrounding the criteria for the allocation of funds and how SMMEs can successfully apply for relief funding.
As the government continues to enforce extended lockdown regulations, small businesses, and the breadwinners and families it supports will continue to suffer. This is especially true in our coastal towns, where arbitrary and irrational beach closures have dealt a heavy blow to our coastal area small business owners.
The Minister has an opportunity to give small business affected by these lockdown regulations a chance of survival, but time is of the essence to ensure that these Covid-19 relief funds are allocated fairly and speedily.