KwaZulu-Natal’s provincial budget is set to top R115 billion in the coming financial year – a R5 billion rand increase over the current year.
This emerged on Thursday when KwaZulu-Natal finance MEC Belinda Scott presented the provincial budget to the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg.
Education and Health take the lion’s share of the budget with R47.4 billion allocated to education and R39.5 billion allocated to health — a combined 75.5% of the total budget in the 2017/18 financial year.
About R73 billion of the total provincial budget will be spent on wages and salaries.
Scott said that R252.3 million had been budgeted for traditional leaders – or Izinduna as they are known.
Speaking at a press conference after delivering her budget Scott said the number of traditional leaders was still being verified. Those that had been audited and confirmed as traditional leaders had started receiving payment. She said initially there were about 3,100 izinduna, but she expected that once the audit and verification processes had been completed, this figure would be less.
The budget for traditional leaders is separate from the R58.9 million that has been allocated to the Zulu Royal Household headed up by King Goodwill Zwelithini.
The provincial Department of Transport is the third biggest recipient of funding, taking up R9.847 billion with most of that to be spent on building roads. Over the next three years it was expected to spend R21.57 billion on various infrastructure projects.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs was allocated R2.78 billion, of which a substantial portion is allocated to Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, which manages the province’s game parks and is at the forefront of anti-poaching measures.
Having taken a substantial cut in its finances in the previous year, Ezemvelo sees its allocation increase from R613.6 million in the 2016/17 year increase to R707.7 million. This is, however, still down on the R718.9 million it received from the provincial treasury in 2015/16.
Scott said that the provincial government would be following National Treasury guidelines to ensure that procurement is targeted to empower various groups, including African women among others.
“We are not talking this over. We are walking the talk,” she said.
Scott said that there had been a number of cuts in allocations from the national treasury which would see the province having to be more conscientious as to how it handles its finances.
The provincial treasury, which at the 2016/17 budget had a positive bank balance of R4 billion had seen this balance drop to R2 billion in December.
Speaking at a press conference after delivering her budget, Scott said that measures were in place to rein in expenditure at the province’s health department. Last year, it emerged that it would have overspent R1.2 billion in the 2016/17 financial year.
With the deployment of treasury officials to the department, she said that spending had been cut and savings were being made, and that the shortfall was now expected to be R350 million.
Scotts said that there would be a big push for the provincial government to buy local. She pointed out that government in various sectors was a consumer of food, as in hospitals, yet often that food, which was available locally, was being brought in from far away.
Scott said that the provincial government needed to get tougher on corruption. “If we don’t, it gives the impression that crime pays.”
Over the next three years, the provincial budget is expected to grow from the R115.26 billion, to R130.4 billion in the 2019/20 financial year.
– African News Agency