Gauteng Government Irregular Expenditure
On Tuesday, 7th March 2017, the Gauteng MEC for Finance, Barbara Creecy, will present her budget speech outlining exactly how the provincial government will be spending, or rather misspending, our hard-earned money in the year ahead.
What the province sorely needs is a frugal spending plan that slashes extravagances such as lavish catering menus, as seen at the State of the Province address a couple of weeks ago, travel, entertainment and advertising and focuses instead on the serious service delivery backlogs in key areas such as education, healthcare and infrastructure development.
For the period under review, the Gauteng government incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R4 billion, unauthorised expenditure totalling R12 million (all incurred by the Department of Sports) and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R29 million. This is just another part of the culture of corruption where the same service providers benefit from government tenders over and over again.
Also, the MEC must finally bring an end to the problem of paying last year’s bills with this year’s money. This amounts to billions of rands and eats into a budget that is supposed to bring better service delivery and a better life for all. These are the so-called “accruals”.
Below are the critical areas which MEC Creecy needs to focus on in her budget so as to improve the lives of Gauteng’s residents and to enable the province to prosper:
The start of the 2017 school year was an unmitigated disaster with 58 000 unplaced children in the province despite R3bn allocated to the department for finishing 12 new schools, upgrading 26 existing schools and the rehabilitation of 123 existing schools. The department built 936 classrooms in public ordinary schools compared to the target of 1 100 classrooms. Furthermore, 306 instead of 450 Grade R classrooms were built. The departmental targets set for examinations and education-related services was not achieved. Of the seven conditional grants that the department received, there was under expenditure in three, namely:
- National School Nutrition Programme- R347 thousand
- HIV/AIDS- R1.7 million
- OSD for education sector therapists- R3.2 million
The departmental targets set for examinations and education-related services were not met.
Infrastructure development within the province has the power to drive social change, create jobs, support businesses and improve the lives of Gauteng residents. With roughly 300 000 people moving to the province every year, it is essential that infrastructure projects are completed on time, within budget and meet quality criteria. The department had 64 targets under the Public Works programme of which 33 were not met; these included critical projects such as the number of new schools completed and the number of schools which have been converted into smart schools.
The department owes R61 million to various service providers and other state institutions for services received in the previous year which points to a lack of financial controls and realistic budget planning.
It is imperative that the departmental budget is correctly allocated so as to unlock the infrastructure potential of Gauteng and fast-track back-dated projects.
We spend over R1bn each year for little or no return; the department has yet again failed to achieve key economic infrastructure targets such as:
- Initiation of the Gauteng ICT Park-Nasrec SEZ;
- Construction of JMPD bulk infrastructure at Airport City IDZ;
- Construction of the Nissan Incubation Centre;
- Refurbishment of 5 industrial parks in townships – none were refurbished.
- Establishment of 2 industrial parks in townships – none were established.
- Completion of a feasibility study for the green technology incubation centre in the western corridor.
Clearly there needs to be less money spent on conferences and vanity projects and more spent on the completion of critical projects which would stimulate the economy and effectively grow small businesses.
With 65.3% of Gauteng inhabitants having increased their home security in the last two years, it is clear that the majority of us still do not feel safe in our province. And rightly so – serious crimes such as murder and hijackings are still commonplace. Yet despite this, the department underspent by R 21 352 million as positions remain vacant and more than 40 Gauteng police stations are underperforming when compared with the 2015/2016 crime statistics.
The irony is that while MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane splurges on Streetwise Twos for prisoners, a third of our traffic police unit are staying home on full pay because there aren’t enough patrol cars for them to do their jobs. Community Safety alone had lawsuits amounting to R52 million which could have been better spent on crime fighting measures and interventions.
The department needs to start spending its budget on its citizens’ core needs if it hopes to create a safe province in which people feel free to travel, walk the streets and let their children play in public places without the fear which haunts so many of our daily routines.
Overall, the Gauteng Department of Health underspent by R472.5 million; legal claims against the department have grown by R3.8 billion in the last year to an astounding total potential liability of R16.5 billion – R13.45 billion of this is for medico-legal claims, R1.6 billion is for civil claims, and R1.5 billion for premature termination of contracts. Yet the Gauteng Department of Health is yet to make the budget adjustments that will enable it to respond to the findings and recommendations of the Health Ombudsman’s report on the death of the 94 Esidemeni psychiatric patients.
About 1‚900 patients were removed in June last year from the Life Esidimeni homes after the department ended its contract with the Life hospital group to save R200-million a year. The Gauteng Department of Health is now spending more on some psychiatric patients than it did when they were housed at Life Esidimeni care homes; this shows the consequences of ineffectual attempts by our provincial departments to cut costs on priority areas, such as healthcare for our most vulnerable groups.
MEC Creecy needs to review her budget priorities, and allocate budget to the province’s critical areas while eliminating inefficiency and cutting non-core spending on frivolities. The DA’s vision for Gauteng is that of a prosperous province that delivers better education for a better future for our children, more jobs, better healthcare and reduced crime. In so doing, the people of Gauteng will enjoy a better life. When Gauteng works, South Africa works.
Please note: DA Finance members will be available for interviews on the 3rd floor DA boardroom of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature immediately after the budget speech has been delivered on Tuesday the 7th of March.
Adriana Randall MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC on Finance
060 556 4342