EDUCATION BUDGET BLOWN ON STAFF

“The Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on education in the province, Edmund van Vuuren, said provincial government had to take serious and unpopular decisions to halt the slide. “They are in dire straits …”

OVER-EXPENDITURE is already a strong possibility for the embattled Eastern Cape Department of Education as it is likely to spend 87 percent of its new R24.6 billion budget on employee costs.

Delivering his first policy speech before the Legislature on Wednesday, Education MEC Mandla Makupula bore the brunt of the department’s history of poor administrative decisions.

“As I table this budget, I am aware of the possibility of an over-expenditure on the personnel component of the budget from the beginning of the financial year as a result of the implementation of the court order.

“This will have major implications on the internal allocation of the budget and on the various programmes within the department,” he said.

Earlier this month, the court ordered the department to reinstate 4 471 temporary teachers whose contracts were terminated in December.

Makupula yesterday announced that 87 percent (some R21.4 billion) of the department’s R24.6bn budget for 2011/12 would go towards paying employees.

Adding to this financial tightrope is a combined over-expenditure bill of R1.2bn over the past two financial years, accruals of R500 million, and a projected R800m for the court-ordered reinstatement of temporary teachers.

This could effectively mean the department will have only R700 million to carry out non-personnel related issues such as books at schools, school nutrition, scholar transport and infrastructure.

Briefing the press after the MEC’s speech superintendent-general Modidima Mannya said: “Now if we were to spend an extra R800m that we normally would have not budgeted for, the sum total is that I’m not even sure, as accounting officer, that we will be able to pay salaries going forward.

“Those who thought they were delivering a victory with this court order might have achieved the opposite effect. And that is to cause further instability in the system ….

“We can’t run a system that simply pays salaries because there will be no education,” Mannya added.

The Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on education in the province, Edmund van Vuuren, said provincial government had to take serious and unpopular decisions to halt the slide. “They are in dire straits … this problem has been building up and a major cause is the issue of double-parked teachers, which have existed for the past five years.

“They must make a big call by identifying those teachers, and then they must have them fill those posts occupied by temporary teachers regardless of what the unions say,” said Van Vuuren. “Remember, doubleparked teachers are permanent, and while this proposal might be unpopular it will go a long way towards helping the department.”

Makupula said R206m meant for the school transport tender would be directly transferred to the Department of Transport, which will now run the programme.