Govt owes KZN R800m for disasters

2012-04-13 11:21
Pietermaritzburg - The national government owes a whopping R800m to KwaZulu-Natal for money spent on natural disaster relief over the past two years.

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 on Thursday.

It also emerged that the Treasury team 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 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.

Transport

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 R6m 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 on Thursday morning when Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube made her presentation. Dube said that the province sat with R3m in its disaster management kitty, leaving the province exposed if a tsumani had to hit.

“We are exposed. Our communities are exposed … What can we do with R3m when we need R200m?” Dube asked.

Disaster management centres

She added that beside the R800m owed, the province was also waiting for R200m from National Treasury to set up 11 district disaster management centres and R38m 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 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 querying the delay in payment, but no response was received.

Read more on:    durban  |  pietermaritzburg  |  weather  |  government spending

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