Transparency is good news

2014-03-12 00:00

MEC for Finance Ina Cronjé’s announcement that transparency will be introduced to the provincial government through the introduction of a electronic procurement tool, will be welcomed by business.

“There were some delays in procuring an electronic system, but the tender has now been awarded,” she said at the tabling of the provincial budget at the KZN legislature in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

A total of R4,5 million has been allocated in 2014/15, R13 million in 2015/16 and R3,5 million in 2016/17 to establish this tool in all the province’s departments.

KZN Provincial Treasury head Simiso Magagula explained that the tool would enable businesses to “log in, see all the tenders on offer and bid live”.

The process will be transparent and aims to eliminate tender rigging, he said. There will be management tools built into it for Treasury’s use.

The system, possibly the first of its kind for the country, will be customised for KZN, he said.

“My view is that it will likely take around a year maximum to be ready to go live,” he told The Witness.

Also highlighted in Cronjé’s speech was the province’s “Operation Sikhokha Ngesikhathi — We pay on time” initiative.

Although launched in 2011 as a drive to ensure that suppliers of government get paid in the 30 days stipulated by law, Cronje placed new emphasis on this. “If you don’t get satisfaction, come to us,” she urged businesses struggling to be paid by government departments.

Cronjé placed special emphasis on infrastructure, tourism and small business as the big drivers of jobs. Local procurement has been prioritised, she said, and pointed to the allocation of R37 million per annum for the soon-to-be launched SBDA (Small Business Development Agency), which is to support and sustain small businesses via Ithala Development Finance Corporation.

The first half of Cronjé’s speech was dedicated to speaking about how the savings made through austerity measures by the KZN government have enabled the funding of a range of significant projects for the province.

A total of R729 million for 2014/15, R351 million for 2015/16 and R884 million for 2017/18 has been allocated from the province’s own coffers.

“The province is able to allocate additional funds to departments as a result of own revenue collected by departments, as well as using provincial cash resources which remain available from the 2012/13 positive net financial position and the 2013/14 budgeted contingency reserve,” Cronjé said.

Public Works, whose total budget increases from R1,31 billion in 2013/14 to R2,05 billion in 2016/17, received an additional R652,5 million from the province’s coffers over the 2014/15 three-year period.

Allocations from this include the first phase of a government office park in Pietermaritzburg (R600 million in 2016/17); R7,5 million to the National Youth Service to improve the employability of young people through developing their skills and knowledge; R20 million to the Richmond Community Development Programme; and R25 million to the Fixed Asset Management Tool (a roll-over from 2012/13 to 2014/15). Magagula said that Town Hill Hospital’s grounds were a likely site of the office park.

Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development — whose budget increases from R2,85 billion in 2013/14 to R3,24 billion in 2016/17 — receives and additional R70,5 million funding from the province’s own funds in 2014/15, and includes allocations to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for road maintenance (R39,51 million in 2014/15); radio frequency identification to fight livestock theft (R10,20 million in 2014/15 only); and R12,3 million in 2014/15 for irrigation equipment for the Makhathini irrigation scheme.

Economic Development and Tourism received an additional R110,04, allocated for the Richards Bay IDZ (R40 million in 2015/16 for infrastructure development); R7 million per annum to Trade and Industry KZN for its Technical Assistance Fund and marketing; and R6 million per annum over the 2014/15 MTEF to the KZN Sharks Board.

KZN Liquor Authority was allocated R2 million in 2014/15, R1,59 million in 2015/16 and R1,69 million in 2016/17 for the procurement of an IT system.

It also received R25,77 million in 2014/15 only for its operational costs.

Cronjé said this was to gear up to properly regulate liquor outlets in the province, especially in light of the new Sunday trade laws changing.

Liquor licences, gambling, speeding fines and a number of other “sins” have been targeted as sources for the collection of own revenue by the province, Cronjé said, which they aim to increase.

Of the total provincial budget, the largest part went to Education (40,8%), followed by Health (31,9%).

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