Johannesburg - The Gauteng MEC for finance has set aside billions of rand to improve education, healthcare and the construction of roads.
As in years past, education and health continue to get the lion’s share of the provincial budget, with Mandla Nkomfe pledging to invest R80 billion in education in the next three years to meet the growing population in the province.
Also in this year’s budget, R15bn has been earmarked to speed up the provision of houses and another R3bn for the purchase of land.
Nkomfe, in his 2014/2015 budget address in the Gauteng provincial legislature yesterday, also announced that the province would spend R32bn to improve health services this year.
He said R5.2bn had been set aside to equip schools with textbooks and other educational materials.
Some R121.8 million had been budgeted to improve the learning and teaching of maths and science in all Gauteng schools.
The province undertook to spend R383.2m to provide teachers with training in classroom management, targeting schools with low annual national assessment results.
“The information, communication and technology infrastructure… will be upgraded to improve the digital literacy of all school leavers and achieve the goals of the overarching ICT strategy, which is to improve curriculum delivery in schools,” Nkomfe said.
His department had set aside R369.4m to assist poorly performing schools, including the one that last year produced Gauteng’s top state school matriculant, Praise Ndebele.
“Improving school safety remains a priority for Gauteng, and as such, R120.6m is allocated to address the challenges of school safety, which involves training patrollers and investigating incidents of crime and violence in schools,” he said.
Other education expenditure includes:
l R694.1m for planning and building new schools.
l R540.3m for the rehabilitation of schools.
l R120.9m to pay for homework assistants for pupils.
Nkomfe also said the government would continue to provide nutritious meals to more than a million learners in 1 334 no-fee schools in the province.
In health, major hospitals and the fight against HIV/Aids received the largest share of the budget.
Nkomfe said R2.8bn had been set aside to improve life expectancy and provide HIV/Aids treatment.
He said R1bn would go to improving the quality of emergency medical services.
“These funds include money that will be utilised to buy additional ambulances and to appoint more personnel to deliver additional emergency services to the public in an attempt to improve response times from 52 percent to 65 percent in 2014/2015.”
Nkomfe also said Gauteng would spend R10.6bn to improve services at Chris Hani Baragwanath and secondary hospitals such as Tembisa Hospital.
“The funds will supplement the budget for non-negotiable items such as the removal of medical waste, infection control and security services at the institutions,” Nkomfe said.
The province had also set aside R299.8m for the construction of new health facilities and a further R146.7m for refurbishment of other health facilities.
“We are also setting aside R1.1bn to ensure that the occupational health and safety standards are met and that the lives of both patients and staff are not put at risk by dilapidated buildings and structures,” Nkomfe said.
He also budgeted R671m to convert Lenasia South and Discoverers community health centres into district hospitals.
Nkomfe announced additional allocations for various departments in Gauteng. Among them was the Department of Economic Development, which was given R3.4bn.
The Gauteng Human Settlements Department was given R15.1bn to accelerate the provision of houses.
Some R550.2m would be set aside for urban renewal projects.
The department was given R2.8bn to buy land for housing.
“In 2014, the Department of Roads and Transport is allocated R2bn to continue with work towards upgrading and rehabilitation of the road networks,” Nkomfe said.
This year, R548m has been allocated to maintaining and fixing sections of the 4 248km paved road network in the province.
Some R1.6bn will be spent over the next three years on fixing the roads, with a target of 200km of road being resealed and rehabilitated every year.
At the moment, the average distance of roads being fixed is 165km a year.
Road construction has been allocated funds this year to upgrade several routes into dual carriageways, including the N14 between Krugersdorp and Diepsloot and Solomon Mahlangu Drive in Mamelodi.
“The province is also faced with a very old road network which is deteriorating rapidly due to the increased traffic loading and which necessitates the upgrading of the roads infrastructure,” the budget reads.
Department of Education
38 Percent of total budget
The Gauteng Department of Education will receive the biggest share at 38 percent of the budget, up from an allocated R29.275bn last year, which will increase to R37.444bn by 2016/17.
“This is mainly due to the appointment of educators to accommodate the growth in the number of learners as a result of in-migration in the province,” the budget reads.
The number of pupils in the province increased by 54 139 last year and the additional jobs will be aimed at maintaining Gauteng’s teacher to pupil ratio of 1:35, which is below the national benchmark of 1:40.
The department also plans to increase access to Grade R for 140 000 pupils in the province, up by 20 000 from current levels. This will include increasing the number of classrooms and training 750 teachers for this level.
Department of Health
36 Percent of total budget
The Health Department’s budget increases from R27.992bn and will reach R35.776bn 2016/17.
“(This is) due to the re-engineering of primary health care and other budget priorities such as emergency medical services and personnel requirements to address the growing need for services,” the budget reads.
Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe said the infrastructure delays in the health sector were a major concern.
“I’m particularly not happy that it took so long, for instance, to complete (Zola) Jabulani Hospital,” he told the media before delivering his speech.
The department aims to improve life expectancy through emergency services, primary healthcare and HIV/Aids programmes.
Grants totalling R647m have been handed down to Gauteng’s three metropolitan municipalities and two district municipalities, with just over over half going to the emergency services, 40 percent to primary healthcare and the remainder to programmes.
Department of Roads and Transport
7 Percent of total budget
This department was allocated an additional R1.382bn this year as it aims to improve public transport and create jobs by fixing the province’s roads.
This includes turning the N12 and the N14 between Krugersdorp and Diepsloot into a dual carriageway, among other construction, to widen roads between Joburg and Vereeniging and Tembisa and Fourways.
Construction to widen Solomon Mahlangu Drive in Pretoria and Cedar Road in Fourways will also take place this year.
The department has also promised to look at the feasibility of buying additional land for parking at the Sandton and Centurion Gautrain stations and increasing services between the two on weekdays as these trains are currently at capacity.
“This is further exacerbated by the implementation of the e-tolls in Gauteng, and the congestion on the train needs to be managed,” the budget reads.
Department of Human Settlements:
6 Percent of total budget
This department aims to build 24 187 housing units this year and has been allocated an additional R352m on last year’s budget. About 2 400 units should be completed this year: 1 694 in Joburg, 437 in Ekurhuleni, 128 in Sedibeng, 74 on the West Rand and 60 in Tshwane.
A further 30 984 houses are to be allocated, with 50 percent to women-headed households, 10 percent to child-headed households, 40 percent to indigent people and 2 percent to people with disabilities.
Some R604.8m has been allocated to upgrade hostels across the province while R12.6m is set aside for inner-city regeneration projects. - The Star