OPPOSITION parties have slammed the department of local government and traditional affairs for allocating more than R600-million of its R788-million budget just to pay salaries.

The money will be used to pay the department’s officials and 148 traditional leaders who are paid an average of R91 000 a year each.

The department defended its budget, saying its salary bill was within government norms, and that it was working on cutting down staff numbers.

DA MPL Dacre Haddon said the department needed to “completely overhaul the way it delivers its mandate to the province.

“The department is sitting on a service delivery time bomb which may have violent consequences unless it seriously revises how it conveys its core business to the province.

“In programme three (development and planning) which is a core programme of the department, a whopping R97.595-million is being budgeted for staff costs, consultants and S&T (subsistence and travelling) from a programme budget of R108.808-million.

“This means that only R11.299-million is left over for the departmental operations to support municipalities this financial year,” he said.

“Chapter 13 of the national development plan titled ‘building a capable state’ articulates in detail how staff should be appointed and how a government department should function effectively. The department must take heed of this plan and implement it forthwith,” added Haddon.

UDM’s Jackson Bici said he was “very concerned about the budget which seemed to be consumed by compensation of employees.

“We have noted this as the committee and we hope the department will do something about it. We are not happy at all.”

COPE MPL Mbulelo Ntenjwa said part of the reason why the department spent most of its budget on salaries was the increasing number of traditional leaders being paid by the department.

He said other programmes meant to be funded by the department suffered because of this.

“The imbumba yamakhosikazi akomkhulu (royal wives development project) has been badly affected. These are projects that create jobs and improve the livelihood of rural people,” said Ntenjwa.

He commended the department for “prioritising its staff complement and focusing on critical posts”.

But he said his party was concerned about the department’s call to have offices in each district.

The department’s superintendentgeneral Stanley Khanyile said the salary bill was “under the acceptable norm in government”. He said the department would reduce its vacancy rate and the number of posts in the department’s organogram.

The department has 1 500 filled posts and more than 1 000 are still vacant.

Khanyile said the department stood to save millions of rands in subsistence and travelling by having district offices.

“We’ve taken the decision to decentralise the department. We’ve done the calculations and we’ll be taking the people who we have in the department to be based in those offices.” — abongilem@dispatch.co.za