COMMENT ON EC BUDGET SPEECH: A GOOD NEWS-BAD NEWS BUDGET

The big winner in this year’s provincial budget is Roads and Public Works and the big loser is Health. The Roads Maintenance Grant has increased by 32%, from R1.034 billion to R1.369 billion and this is good for our economy. It’s a ray of sunshine in the budget.

Our big concern is around the Health Department which receives R15.66 billion. It sees a decline of 2.7% or R424 million in its budget. We are not convinced that the problems of accruals have been eradicated as the department is currently battling to pay its suppliers.

We welcome the emphasis on no-fee schools and the fact that many more needy learners will benefit from the school nutrition programme in the new financial year due to quintile status changes. The budget speech however, does not come to grips with the cost of temporary educators and the 5 122 double parked educators.

The core issues that continue to haunt this budget are spiralling costs of personnel, the under expenditure on the capital budget and the top-slicing that occurs to pay for the previous year’s expenditure as well as the management of the whole tender process. The spiralling costs of personnel need to be capped – 77 % of the equitable share received from national government goes towards personnel. This is way out.

We estimate that R1.2 billion that could have been allocated to departments has been held back to pay for expenditure in previous financial years. If this had not occurred we would have had a budget somewhere between R57- and R58 billion.

The key issue around this budget concerns the implementation. The consequence of the above four issues means that there is less funding available for actual service delivery. This means less funding for medicines in clinics, equipment in hospitals and resources for our schools.

Another issue which was not addressed strongly enough is the under expenditure on capital budgets. The fact that the Education Department has only spent 30% of its capital budget as at the end of the third quarter of 2011/12 highlights the seriousness of the problem.

The DA believes that there needs to be strong political leadership to deal decisively with the problematic areas of our provincial finances. Year in and year out these problems continue. Poor administration keeps poor people poor.

Only efficient and clean government will create the right environment for service delivery, job creation and poverty alleviation.