Honourable Premier of the Eastern Cape, Honourable Speaker, Honourable MECs, Honourable Members of the Legislature, Ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon.
The Financial Oversight Report for the period April to September shows us that the Department has underspent its budget by R1.310 million.
Hon Speaker, it is with great concern that this department has yet again underspent its budget for the library and archives services by R13. 292 million. According to a written response I received from MEC Majodina, there are currently 15 libraries that are closed in the Eastern Cape. How could the department underspend its library and archives budget when 15 libraries are closed?!
In rural areas libraries play an important role in the upbringing of children and young adults. With these 15 libraries that are currently closed, this has an adverse effect on the youth an adult literacy rates. Furthermore, Eastern Cape currently has the highest illiteracy rate with the following districts having the highest rates O.R Tambo 14.9%, Alfred Nzo 13.2%, Chris Hani 12.6%, Amathole 11.8% and Joe Gqabi 11.2%.
If our province had sufficient and well-equipped libraries, the very high illiteracy rate would be reduced. As mentioned in my previous speech in this House, the department must ensure that libraries also take initiative to create activities for the youth in various communities, especially during the upcoming school holidays. Unfortunately, most libraries are unable to do so due to a lack of resources and budget from the Department. However, I do not see a budget constraint as the department has underspent in its library and archive programme.
I feel that libraries contribute a major factor in our youth’s development as knowledge is power.
My colleague in Western Cape, Ross Purdon, in a speech once stated and I quote, “Spending less than what has been budgeted may seem more favourable to a small household but when a government department does it, it deprives the residents, especially school going kids of essential opportunities!” close quote.
It is of great concern that the Department consistently struggles to spend its allocated budget.
Administration overspent by R4. 083 million, Cultural Affairs overspent by R1.839 million and Sport and Recreation overspent by R6. 060 million.
As recommended by our committee in the report before you – the Department has to provide us with clear strategies to prevent this over expenditure and under-expenditure. There are always excuses and sometimes unconvincing answers but the truth is this is not a new finding and over expenditure is simply unacceptable.
The upcoming school holidays brings a much-needed break for learners and educators across the province but school holidays is also a period where a lot of our youth in the province are at risk of becoming involved in negative social behaviour, often because they are unsupervised. Due to this, I hope the Department is doing enough to ensure that children are exposed to recreational and educational opportunities over this holiday period.
I am appealing to the Department to try and create a safe, free and open society for all communities and their children to be together during this festive period. The Department should at least try to provide more to the poor.
Hon Speaker, as stated in the report the Department must provide the committee with a detailed report on how it intends to address underspending in all programmes, as this affects the performance of the department.
The DA supports the adoption of the report.