Statistics South Africa has raised the alarm on budget cuts introduced by the National Treasury, saying the cost-containment would hit them very hard.
The entity, which appeared before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on R163 million unauthorised expenditure incurred since 2015-16, blamed budget cuts for reducing their spending on salaries to a point they could not fill positions for five years.
Deputy Minister in the Presidency Kenny Morolong said the unauthorised expenditure was mainly in the compensation of employees, not due to financial mismanagement.
“These cuts resulted in warm bodies not being funded and over expenditure incurred on the cost of employees.
“At that point the organisation stopped filling vacancies for a period of five years, which had a negative impact on the deliverables of the organisation.
“These financial challenges had been reported to the Minister in the Presidency, the National Treasury, Minister of Finance and Stats Council,” Morolong said.
He also said they welcomed the proposal by the National Treasury to Scopa to allow the unauthorised expenditure.
“However, due to the recent cost-containment measures Stats SA finds itself in the 2015-16 financial situation as the composition of compensation of employees of warm bodies exceeds the budget cuts being implemented,” Morolong said.
In its presentation, Stats SA said it incurred unauthorised expenditure in the 2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 years mainly due to budget cuts.
“National Treasury reduced the department’s compensation of employees’ budget to an extent that the cost of currently filled positions (warm bodies) at the time exceeded the reduced budget allocation.
“This compensation of employees budget reduction resulted in unauthorised expenditure amounting to R163.877 million,” reads the presentation.
Stats SA also indicated that part of the expenditure amounting to R6.7m was linked to the citizen survey it conducted for the KwaZulu-Natal Office of the Premier.
“The actual expenditure on the project was R9,499 million, resulting in a shortfall of R2,745 million.
“Continuous engagements to obtain a refund for the additional funding were unsuccessful, notwithstanding the benefits the project provided to the KZN Provincial Government.
“The shortfall of R2,745 million was therefore included as expenditure in Stats SA’s financial records for 2018-19 and disclosed as unauthorised expenditure as required for any expenditure incurred not in accordance with the purpose of the vote.”
While National Treasury recommended some of the expenditure be charged from the department’s future budgets, Stats SA motivated that the monies be taken form the National Revenue Fund.
It said continuous reductions to future Stats SA allocation would affect the department adversely in delivering on its mandate as the current fiscal climate would already cause National Treasury to implement severe departmental cuts.
“The current 2023-24 costs containment cuts has resulted in Stats SA already having over-expenditure on compensation of employees once again largely due to no funding being provided for the cost of living adjustments implemented by National Treasury.”
However, Scopa could not understand why the amount owed by KwaZulu-Natal was included in the unauthorised expenditure.
“Why should the National Revenue Fund pay for someone who does not want to pay? Should KwaZulu-Natal not foot the bill?” Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa asked.
Hlengwa said the National Treasury should provide guidance on the R2.7m and KwaZulu-Natal should give its side of the story on the matter.