Drought funds are too late

2017-01-24 08:11
Drought funds are too late
Fiscal dumping denied as Msunduzi gets R3 mln to drill for water in 10 weeks

Drought funds are too late Fiscal dumping denied as Msunduzi gets R3 mln to drill for water in 10 weeks (File)

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Is R3 million from Cogta for drought relief in Msunduzi too little too late, merely a rainbow after the storm?

Or is it a genuine helping hand or even the result of fiscal dumping to get rid of unspent money allocated for drought alleviation in the province?

These are questions that have arisen after the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) approved a R10 million grant to the uMgungundlovu District Municipality — with R3 million for boreholes to be drilled in the most drought-affected areas in the Msunduzi Municipality.

The funding was approved in November last year, but according to sources in Msunduzi Municipality, city officials were only notified about it last week.

A source revealed that the municipality was also told the borehole project needed to be completed by the end of March this year, leaving less than 10 weeks from today.

“We obviously want the money but we cannot be irresponsible about it. We cannot take the money without having a plan in place and then have Cogta take the unspent money from us,” said the source.

The source said that less than three months to drill a number of boreholes was “just not enough time” as procurement, supply chain and assessment processes needed to take place.

“And that in itself may take longer than three months,” the source said.

Regarding the short deadline, the source blamed Cogta for “fiscal dumping”, saying their demands to spend the money by March stemmed from the Provincial Treasury casting doubts that Cogta would meet their deadlines for the mid-term budget.

In November last year, the department was rapped over the knuckles for their slow spending of the drought relief intervention budget.

The department had projected they would spend R100 million by mid-year, but only R75,49 million was spent.

Provincial Treasury had already expressed doubt the department would be able to spend the full budget by the end of the year.

If the money is not fully spent by the end of the financial year, Cogta will have to give it back to National Treasury.

Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso yesterday denied that the funding was a result of fiscal dumping, saying the approval for the R10 million was in fact a response to a specific request from the district.

Mabaso said the district indicated they received initial funding to the tune of R4,7 milllion and used this money to implement some of their drought-related projects.

“But due to the continuing drought problem, the money was not sufficient to respond to the situation on the ground,” said Mabaso.

He said Cogta responded to a specific need expressed by uMgungundlovu on the strength of the municipality’s drought risk assessment and a specific business plan they submitted for projects such as boreholes and other interventions.

He added that the allegations of fiscal dumping were “malicious and baseless”.

He said the time-frame for the spending of the funding and the completion of the borehole projects was included in the district municipality’s drought business plan.

DA caucus leader in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Bongumusa Nhlabathi said they were told at a recent executive council meeting that Msunduzi had declined the grant saying they did not need it.

The Witness was unable to confirm this as Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not respond to queries by the time of going to print.

Nhlabathi said the DA would nevertheless send a letter to the general manager for infrastructure in Msunduzi to seek reasons why they allegedly declined a water grant.

“It came as a shock to us when Msunduzi turned down this grant funding saying they ‘don’t need it’.

“The wards mentioned here have not had water for months and have been relying mostly on water tankers.

“Last year there were various strikes in these wards regarding the water issue,” Nhlabathi said in an e-mail to The Witness.

In the letter sent to the district in November last year, Cogta said the funding must be spent on boreholes within five wards in Msunduzi Municipality — including KwaPata, Slangspruit, Willowfountain, Emantshaheni and Ambleton.

These five areas have been most affected since the start of the drought and were left without water for at least four months last year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  drought  |  water crisis

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