RAISE EDUCATION BUDGET, URGES OPPOSITION: THE HERALD

EASTERN Cape political leaders and civic organisations want Planning and Finance MEC Phumulo Masualle to allocate the bulk of the budget to the troubled Health and Education departments when he delivers his provincial budget speech in Bhisho tomorrow.

Last year, Masualle presented a R56.2-billion budget –a 2% increase from the previous financial year.

Despite the Education Department having been allocated almost half of last year’s budget – R26.2-billion – it failed to hire enough teachers and build more schools to address the issue of overcrowded classrooms.

The embattled Health Department received R15.1-billion last year – R424-million less than in 2011.

And now DA legislature leader Bobby Stevenson is expecting this year’s budget to be about R60-billion, with 75% of it allocated to the Education and Health departments.

He said Masualle promised to investigate the problem of more than 70% of the budget going to salaries.

“If the cost of employees continues to escalate, there won’t be any money left for service delivery.

“There should be accountability in provincial departments on how money is spent. There needs to be serious consequences in under-expenditure because that is the major issue in this province,” Stevenson said.

DA education spokesman Edmund van Vuuren appealed to Masualle to increase the education budget to about R30-billion. He said the increase would alleviate problems with the payment of teachers, infrastructure and schools being built.

COPE provincial spokesman Nkosifikile Gqomo said it would be impossible for Masualle to increase the budget from last year.

“Last year he predicted there would be a budget cut this year, so it will be impossible to increase it, unless he is not consistent in what he says.

“But we would like him to allocate more to the Education, Health and Social Development departments because they are facing challenges and are under pressure.

“We also expect him to talk at length about how the budget will address the issues of infrastructure,” Gqomo said.

UDM provincial chairman Mongameli Bobani wants more money to be allocated to cooperatives, to fight unemployment and to education and health.

“He [Masualle] should allocate more money to tangible programmes. More than 10 or 20 people can come together in co-ops and create jobs that will benefit communities.

“Education is one of our main priorities in building communities.” He wanted schools to be renovated and a return of the feeding scheme.

“Hospitals are in a mess and clinics and hospitals don’t have pills. Primary healthcare in the Bay is a mess.

“Not a single one of our municipalities received a clean audit. How will the MEC inject more money in municipalities when they couldn’t spend the money the way they were supposed to?” Bobani asked.

Cyril Langbooi of the South African National Civic Organisation said: “We are expecting at least a 10% increase from last year’s budget because prices have gone up since then.

“Sustainable cooperatives, building of houses, fighting poverty, unemployment and inequality should be prioritised,” he said.

South African Non-Governmental Organisation Coalition district secretary Mongameli Peter said: “Social development, health and education should be prioritised. Education and health always get most of the budget, but the issue is how they spend it.”