Times SELECT 04 October 2019

The Gauteng government has failed to spend R3.1bn in the 2018/19 financial year, including almost R1bn by the education department meant for building schools and buying desks and pupil support material.

This comes from the provincial department’s annual reports due to be tabled in the provincial legislature by the end of October.

The reports show a series of underspending across the departments, except by the office of the premier.

Gauteng treasury spokesperson Tshepo Shawa confirmed to Times Select that the provincial government had failed to spend large chunks of its budget for the 2018/19 financial year.

The figures:

  • Education underspent nearly R1bn of its R45.7bn;
  • Health underspent more than R751m of its R46.7bn;
  • Social development failed to spend more than R419m of R4.6bn;
  • Roads and transport failed to spend R356m of R7.9bn;
  • Sports, arts, culture and recreation did not spend more than R126m of R1bn; and
  • Agriculture and rural development failed to spend more than R107m of its R997m.

The health budget was meant for buying much-needed medication, to maintain infrastructure and to hire staff.

Shawa said the provincial treasury was continuously improving planning and budgeting synergy across the province.

“We do this to ensure that provincial priorities are strategically funded and that budget is spent on programmes that meet the service delivery needs of citizens. Gauteng is committed to ensure that we spend 100% of the allocated budget to meet the service delivery needs of citizens,” he said.

Last week, finance and e-government MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko expressed serious concerns that the human settlements department received a disclaimer audit opinion. This means it had provided insufficient evidence, in the form of documentation, on which to base an audit opinion.

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department underspent on the filling of posts because of a moratorium placed on advertising and filling posts.

The moratorium was a result of the department and labour failing to reach an agreement on the number of teachers needed in the province.

He said the underspending mainly related to delays in finalising the procurement of school furniture, expired contracts for the school feeding scheme, and pupil transport challenges.

Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the bulk of the unspent budget was for the much-needed human papillomavirus vaccination to prevent cervical cancer among Grade 4 girls in all public and special schools.

“There were reasons for underspending, which included but were not limited to late receipt of invoices. A number of nonprofit institutions did not meet the qualifying funding criteria,” she explained.

Some construction contracts had to be terminated owing to poor performance by contractors.

“In some instances contractors abandoned sites due to community unrests/service delivery protests which affected projected expenditure,” she said.

Kekana said the department had applied for a rollover of funds to the new (2019/20) financial year and had subsequently received provisional approval for R299.8m from the provincial treasury.

Roads and transport spokesperson Theo Nkonki confirmed that his department had failed to spend R356m, and attributed the failure to the procurement process and appointment of staff.

In that department they had also failed to spend R46.418m within the administration programme due to delays in filling vacant positions.

 “Approximately R84.919m was underspent within the transport infrastructure programme, mainly due to unforeseen delays with the department’s procurement processes and significant delays in key projects due to contract cancellations, poor contractors’ performance and community unrests.”

A further R225.815m had been underspent within the transport operations programme, mainly due to prolonged challenges around bus operators not operating within the required operating time table.

“In addition, the department has not been successful in appointing a bus operator within the Sedibeng area to deal with the services that were terminated by the previous bus operator,” he said.

Last month, Times Select reported that the Gauteng department of infrastructure development budgeted more than R620m for 14 construction projects, but all it had to show for this was terminated contracts and shoddy or incomplete workmanship.

One of these projects dates back to 2015, while the other 13 tenders were awarded in 2017.

In August, Gauteng premier David Makhura promised the construction of two new hospitals in Hammanskraal and Soshanguve to ease pressure on the disgraced Jubilee and Dr George Mukhari hospitals, but it came to light there was no budget available for the projects.

Makhura’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, said the provincial government was looking at strengthening the provincial delivery unit in order to monitor spending by government departments.

“This unit will be the eyes and ears of the premier to ensure that we do not get shocked at the end of the financial year, that departments have failed to spend their entire budgets,” Mhaga said.

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