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Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development underspent its budget by R76.8 million in the past financial year, four times more than the underspend of R18.3m in 2011/12.
That is according to a reply by MEC Weziwe Thusi to a question in the legislature by the DA, which criticised the department this week for not spending its budget at a time when many NGOs were in dire need of financial assistance.
“The KZN Social Development Department exists primarily to hand out funding to organisations in need,” said the DA’s Johann Krog.
“It has no capital projects and there is therefore no good reason why the full budget has not been spent.
“Poor administration. It’s pathetic. They should know what their projection is and spend the money accordingly.”
Krog said a number of old age home and childcare centres were in dire need of financial assistance, yet the department had not spent its money.
“Quite simply the money has not been allocated because officials have not been proactive… and found organisations to fund,” he said.
Non-profit organisations such as Childline KZN and Child Welfare were two of the organisations that could be helped financially.
“There is a great demand for social workers. Their priority is children and education, but that responsibility has fallen to the teachers. They aren’t trained as social workers,” said Krog.
Meanwhile, the number of social workers employed by the department had almost halved in the past few years, he said.
“The DA believes that the department has reneged on its mandate. We expect MEC Weziwe Thusi to explain how she has allowed this to happen on her watch.”
Krog called for the MEC to resign.
Responding to what she called the DA’s “mischievous” statement, spokeswoman Ncumisa Fandesi rejected the notion that the department existed “primarily (to) hand out funding to organisations”.
She said it provided social welfare services.
“It is mischievous for the Democratic Alliance to link the financial crisis faced by some non-profit organisations to any underspending by the department,” said Fandesi.
The department allocated more than R2m a year to Childline KZN alone, and this paid for 10 ocial workers and other staff.
“The government is not responsible for the day-to-day cost of an NGO. They are allowed to ask for assistance from other funders.”
Fandesi said 50 percent of all transfer payments by the department were to NGOs.
As for the underspending, this was due to a review of the department’s spending on physical infrastructure.
“This affected the budget for buildings and other fixed structures as well as machinery and equipment.
“The other contributing factor to underspending was the cost-cutting measures implemented by the provincial government.”