IN A clear indication that the Eastern Cape government is determined to tackle excessive expenditure on personnel, Provincial Planning and Finance MEC Phumulo Masualle has told the Bhisho Legislature that a review of organisational structures “definitely needs to take place; there is no argument about it”.

Replying to the Budget debate to questions raised by Bobby Stevenson (DA) with regard to the possible rationalisation of staff, the MEC said it had been agreed “organisational structures of departments must be revisited” so that “we really deal with what is absolutely needed”.

Masualle said that part of the turnaround “focuses exactly on that when it comes to HR, particularly in the big departments such as Education and Health”.

He suggested MECs return to the Legislature and “indicate progress on the review of those organisational structures”.

Masualle also pointed to the need to eliminate wastage saying there were schools that needed to be amalgamated with other schools “so that we can make better use of available resources”. And, in a clear message to the unions that have often resisted changes in this area, Masualle said: “When we act, we must have the support of everybody. That is what we plead for.”

Stevenson said Provincial Treasury needed to deal with the rising costs as a matter of urgency. “One finds that on the one hand, the cost of employees is going up and service delivery in relation to capital expenditure is going down. The province is paying more and more for less and less and the people of the Province are the big losers.”

Stevenson said in the last financial year the employee costs of the Eastern Cape had risen to R31.4 billion as compared to R28.3 billion previously.

The percentage spent on employee costs in the provincial budget was 65.3%, the highest of all the provinces. Stevenson said the Provincial Treasury needed to set a level beyond which personnel costs could not rise. “We cannot continue along this road as the Province will slowly have to wind down services because of increasing personnel costs. We will be reduced to an employment agency.”