Limpopo tightens belts after learning hard lessons

2015-03-11 10:14

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Having learnt the hard way from its near collapse three years ago, the Limpopo government intends to tighten belts to prevent a recurrence of what led the province to bankruptcy three years ago.

In his budget speech yesterday, Finance MEC Kgolane Phala said the provincial government would in the next three financial years ending in 2018 “target patterns of under-expenditure, nonessential items and all uncommitted resources”.

“This is a period of belt-tightening, of doing more with less or reducing inefficiency and waste, of enhancing the cost-containment plans and of reinforcing the austerity measures,” Phala said.

He warned that during this strict period the “budgets would be cut to the bone and no additional funds would be provided for anything”.

“We should all spend within our means and the available resources. Nevertheless, provisions of basic services will be protected to minimise the effect on frontline service delivery. We will continue to pursue greater efficiency and value for money in achieving our goals.”

This was the province’s first tabling of a budget in the absence of Section 100 (b) administrators, who have been at the helm of administration and purse strings since December 2011.

Administrators were completely withdrawn from the province earlier this year after concluding that Limpopo was stable enough for Premier Stan Mathabatha’s administration to take over the reins.

Administrators were part of the national government’s intervention for Limpopo at a time when the provincial administration had accumulated unauthorised expenditure amounting to R2.7 billion as well as an overdraft of R1.7 billion amid rampant maladministration, insufficient cash management, tender irregularities and incidents of fraud and corruption.

The province had run out of cash and would have failed to pay public servants on pay dates in December 2011.

Phala said the province had returned to sound financial footing and financial management improved since the Section 100 intervention.

Meanwhile, education continued to take the lion’s share of the province’s R52.7 billion budget for the 2015-2016 financial year at R25.3 billion. Of this amount, R805 million would be channelled towards infrastructure development to address the shortage of classrooms as well as water and sanitation at schools.

Health comes after education at R14.8 billion. The province has been dealing with challenges of poor health services including medical supplies and equipment shortage.

“This allocation also focuses on the provision of quality healthcare through the supply of medicine and medical equipment supplies, continuous stabilisation of security, fleet management and emergency services as well as an additional allocation for the Cuban doctors programme and Limpopo Medical School,” Phala said.

The cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs department was expected to use R1.3 billion of its R2.3 billion to build houses. The province is sitting on a huge backlog, having had no new housing projects in the past three years.

“We are confident as the provincial government that this budget will help us meet the objectives set out in the Limpopo Development Plan, facilitate delivery of services to our people and build a better life for all. We are unequivocal that today is better than yesterday and that tomorrow would be even better,” Phala said in conclusion.

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