Cogta ‘sitting on aid funds’

2017-02-27 10:23
KZN MEC for Cogta Nomsa Dube-Ncube

KZN MEC for Cogta Nomsa Dube-Ncube (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - The provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has been caught out.

It appears the department misled a finance portfolio committee meeting sitting at the provincial legislature late last year about all-important drought funding for stricken KZN communities.

The department told the committee in November that it had spent over R124 million of the R150 million allocated for drought relief.

At that time The Witness had reported that the department had only spent R7 million at mid-year, six months into the financial year.

With just about a month to go before the end of the financial year, it now appears that the department has failed to spend at least 50% of its drought relief allocation.

A letter written by Finance MEC Belinda Scott to Cogta portfolio committee chairperson Gloria Swartbooi-Ntombela sheds some light on how the department seems to have sat on millions meant for drought relief in the province, which was declared a drought disaster area in 2015.

In the letter, Scott warns of the “possibility” of underspending the millions of rands meant for drought-stricken KZN communities and farmers.

The department was allocated R150 million, and according to Scott’s letter, of which The Witness has a copy, it had only spent R67,421 million by February 10.

In December 2016, after the 2016/17 adjustment estimates were finalised, the department made urgent submissions to Provincial Treasury to transfer R35 million of the drought relief funds to four municipalities, Scott said in the letter.

In addition, the department also made an urgent submission of R50 million to deviate from competitive bidding processes in order to appoint a contractor to drill and equip 69 boreholes in 10 districts in the province, continued Scott.

“All the above-mentioned point to poor planning on the side of the department when it comes to drought implementation and Provincial Treasury has cautioned the department against fiscal dumping in order to avoid showing under-expenditure,” she said.

According to the correspondence, which was given to portfolio committee members last week, the department failed to spend R33 million in drought relief funding during the 2015/16 financial year. Despite this, on March 29, 2016 it asked Treasury to transfer R55 million to drought relief from within its own unspent budget funds from a different programme.

The request was denied by Treasury on the basis that it was viewed as fiscal dumping, and because it exceeded the allowable amount for a normal virement or intra-department transfer.

The request had also been made without any business plans that detailed how the money would be used.

Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso declined to comment, saying the department would brief the committee first in a meeting at a date that had been scheduled, before speaking to the media.

DA spokesperson on Cogta George Mari said the revelation meant Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube was sitting on “almost R200 million in drought relief funding as people suffer”.

“If ever there was a tale of an uncaring ANC, this is it. The failure to ensure that drought relief is rolled out in the province is also indicative of the worst kind of ineptitude.

“Not only does it show the complete incompetence of officials themselves, it also shows just how out of touch the MEC is with what is happening in her own department … funding was allocated directly to her department by KZN Treasury specifically for drought relief — R33 million last year and R150 million this year. The lack of expenditure falls squarely at her feet and she should hang her head in shame.

“MEC Dube-Ncube must explain why she and her department failed the people of our province in their hour of need,” he said.

Read more on:    cogta  |  pietermaritzburg  |  drought

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