Finance dept: no ‘tough resolution’ adopted

2010-09-08 00:00

I WAS astounded to read the article   titled “Four depts in trouble for budget bungling” (The Witness, September 3). So were other people who attended the debate on the 2009/10 Unaudited Budget Close Out Report on September 2 at the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.

It seems as if we did not attend the same debate that The Witness reported on. During the debate not a single person or party “adopted a tough resolution of the Financial Portfolio Committee to act against four provincial government departments that overspent or underspent on their budget allocations in the 2009/2010 financial year”.

The so-called tough resolution to act against departments was not made in the finance chairperson’s report, neither was it made during the sitting. The report of the Finance Portfolio Committee was in fact unanimously adopted by all parties.

All parties (including the opposition parties) expressed appreciation for the way in which the projected over-expenditure had been reduced from R5,6 billion (which was the projected over-expenditure at mid-year) to R1,6 billion. The success of our cost-cutting measures has resulted in the KwaZulu-Natal model now being implemented throughout government.

It is standard practice for departments to appear before the Finance Portfolio Committee to explain over- and under-expenditure. It is clear from the notes and resolutions in the report that the reasons provided by the four departments were valid. For example, the projected over-expenditure of education is related to inadequate compensation from the National Treasury for Occupation Specific Dispensation costs and the higher than anticipated 2009 wage agreement. In the same vein, the Department of Health is affected by the National Health Laboratory Services’ decision to impose a fee unilaterally for service billing mechanism, which increased the province’s bill for these services. In addition, the effects of medical inflation (higher than normal inflation) also impacted on the spending patterns of the department.

Legitimate reasons were also provided for under-expenditure. To this end the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development’s request to roll-over the unspent portion of its conditional grant has been approved. With regard to the Department of Transport, the issue of money owed by Transnet to the eThekwini Municipality will be dealt with.

During the debate all speakers (including the ANC members) expressed some concern about some general financial issues. However, given the fact that the Finance Portfolio Committee had seen the promising first quarter budget report of 2010/11, the “ayes” definitely had it. Not a single voice was against it.

This does not mean that we are complacent. We will not rest until we have no over-expenditure and our taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.

 

• Ina Cronjé is MEC for Finance, KwaZulu­-Natal.

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