SALARIES SWALLOW UP THE BUDGET: THE HERALD

EDUCATION stakeholders in the Eastern Cape have slammed the provincial Education Department’s budget for catering more to the financial needs of its staff than the department’s core business – the pupils.

Tabling his second budget as MEC for Education yesterday, Mandla Makupula told how 91.2% of the R26.28-billion budget – up from R24.6-billion in the current financial year – was to go towards staff salaries.

The national norm is that only 80% of the provincial budget goes to personnel and 20% to non-personnel issues.

Looking at the figures, this leaves about R2.3-billion to address the myriad of problems plaguing the ailing department, which spent 87.7% of the 2011-12 budget on personnel expenditure.

The over-expenditure on the remuneration of employees was one of the major issues that led to the intervention by the national government last year.

“This historical over-expenditure in personnel costs has effectively begun to crowd out what money is available for the resourcing of school infrastructure, learning/teaching support material, furniture and equipment, as well as on-site support to schools,” Makupula said.

“Therefore, service delivery, not only in the Department of Education but also in the rest of government, will be adversely affected if this challenge is not meaningfully addressed within the foreseeable future.”

In the 2011-12 financial year, the department effected budget cuts – which saw more than half a billion in debt going unpaid – to cover the projected over-expenditure as a result of the reinstatement of more than 4 000 temporary teachers in March last year.

“Out of the amount of R522-million disclosed in the last financial year, the bulk of payments of R362-million was made and any outstanding amounts will be paid in two tranches in the first six months of the new financial year,” Makupula said.

The department has been highly criticised for allocating the lion’s share of the budget to staff compensation and for not getting its affairs in order in terms of the actual number of teachers needed in the system.

DA education spokesman Edmund van Vuuren said it was unacceptable that the education department’s biggest function was the payment of salaries.