Gauteng budget will not uplift its residents unless spent wisely

Today, the Gauteng MEC for Finance Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko delivered the 2021/2022 budget in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. As expected, this budget is a tough balancing act for the MEC as the province is the economic hub of the country and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our economy has taken a hard knock.

During her speech, Nkomo-Ralehoko highlighted that the economy of Gauteng’s Gross Domestic Product by Region shrunk by about R80,9 billion, from R1.1 trillion in 2019 to R1 trillion in 2020.

As expected this year the key focus for the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) will be the following:

  • Defeating the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • Re-igniting the Gauteng economy;
  • Recalibrating social policy;
  • Improving governance

In addition, the budget this year will also focus on ensuring that the compulsory baseline reduction, due to the three-year-wage freeze on salary increases for public servants and additional reductions to the compensation of employees to support government’s five-year fiscal consolidation stance to reduce the budget, is adhered to. This is extremely important if we want to ensure that the wage bill is kept to 60%. Currently, the wage bill for the province is at 57% but in order to maintain this, there needs to strict adherence to how and when overtime for public servants is approved.

The stance of the GPG to ensure that value for money is received on key infrastructure is welcomed, however it is still concerning that despite this being said on numerous occasions by the provincial government, key infrastructure projects are still not completed on time and within budget.

R5.9 billion has been allocated over the 2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, the bulk of which will be focusing on assisting Gauteng to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Department of Health receiving R2.8 billion. The Democratic Alliance (DA) hopes that this money will be spent in a transparent manner and that there will not be a repeat of the Personal Protection Equipment scandal that rocked the province last year. It is especially concerning considering that the Covid-19 provincial disclosure reports do not contain any annexures and do not provide appropriate insight into how the money has been spent.

Further to this, the GPG will be focusing on creating the correct environment for job creation, through the Special Economic Zones and Industrial hubs. The DA sincerely hopes that this year will see a concerted effort to get these areas in the province up and running. Many of them are in a dire state and do not operate adequately, despite being critical channels to equip our youth with skills needed to find sustainable long-term employment. The MEC sang the praises of the Tshwane Automotive Hub but however failed to acknowledge the DA-led Tshwane municipality’s efforts in having pushed for it since taking over the metro in 2016.

The DA will be keeping a close eye on how this year’s budget is spent, and that where officials are not adhering to the regulations set out by the Public Finance Management Act, that they are held to account. This is the only way in which we can ensure that the budget is spent on time, and where possible, there is no irregular and wasteful expenditure. Our taxpayers’ money cannot be spent recklessly.