Govt owes KZN R800 mln

2012-04-13 00:00

THE national government owes a whopping R800 million to KwaZulu-Natal for money spent on natural disaster relief over the past two years.

And now the province’s disaster management kitty is almost dry, while other projects suffer because of a knock-on effect, the province’s finance committee heard yesterday. It also emerged yesterday that the Treasury team that was supposed to sort out payment to KwaZulu-Natal, has been shipped out to Limpopo to sort out the financial crisis there.

This was the last straw for finance committee chair Belinda Scott, who gave Treasury and the national Co-operative Governance and the Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department until the end of the month to resolve the issue. If this was not done, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his Cogta counterpart Richard Baloyi would be summoned before the legislature to account for the massive IOU, she said.

Scott’s exasperation came shortly after the Transport Department appeared before her committee.

Department officials received a drubbing for slow delivery on road maintenance and construction.

Transport’s chief financial officer Wayne Evans told MPLs that funds had been used to rebuild flood damaged roads in the province.

A big dent had been made in the department’s coffers after tropical cyclone Irina earlier this year. As a result maintenance contracts had to be put on hold for about six weeks. In trying to keep up with contracts, the department had already incurred over R6 million in over-expenditure.

Evans explained that at the time the disasters struck they were told to use what money they had to sort out the emergencies and to then claim. Funds would come from National Treasury, but the department was waiting for the money.

Consternation in the committee started earlier yesterday morning when Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube made her presentation. Dube said that the province sat with R3 million in its disaster management kitty, leaving the province exposed if a tsumani had to hit tomorrow.

“We are exposed. Our communities are exposed … What can we do with R3 million when we need R200 million?” Dube asked.

She added that beside the R800 million owed, the province was also waiting for R200 million from National Treasury to set up 11 district disaster management centres and R38 million more for a provincial disaster nerve centre. Dube said her department had been pushing for national government to allocate the funds, because KZN was a disaster-prone province.

Last year, the finance committee passed a resolution tasking the head of provincial treasury to meet his national counterpart, as well as the heads of the national disaster management team and representatives from both the provincial and national Cogta departments.

The meeting was to determine the exact cost of natural disasters in the province, the shortfall owed to KZN and the concrete measures to be taken to ensure what was owed was paid.

The committee was told yesterday that a preliminary meeting had taken place in December last year.

Provincial disaster manager Mthokozisi Duze said a follow-up meeting this month had been put on hold because officials dealing with the matter were sent to Limpopo instead to sort out the financial crisis there.

An e-mail was sent to national treasury yesterday querying the delay in payment, but no response was received by the time of going to press.

• nalini@witness.co.za

Recent KZN Disasters

- March 2012: Tropical cyclone Irina.

2011:

- Thunderstorm damaged homes in Copesville and some roads in Hilton.

- New Year’s Eve: Heavy thunderstorm damages homes and infrastructure in uMsinga and uMvoti.

- Christmas Eve: About 100 people homeless after a storm in Ladysmith.

December 2010: Floods in Newcastle. The government pledged R100 million to flood victims in January 2011.

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