Durban - Government Communication and Information System director-general Phumla Williams shed light on the disaster funds on Tuesday, after the DA alleged that the National Treasury has refused to release funds to be used for disaster relief by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government.
Williams said the allegations levelled against the National Treasury were mischievous and unwarranted at a time when the government and society were putting in all efforts to rebuild the lives and livelihoods of those affected by the floods.
Earlier this week, the DA held a media briefing where it announced that the money that was going to be used to rebuild homes and infrastructure damaged by last month’s floods was no longer available for use.
Provincial leader Francois Rogers said that as there had been no progress after the promises announced by the government, he approached Finance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube to find out where the funds committed by the government were.
Rodgers said Dube-Ncube’s answer was that the R1 billion was no longer coming, and it was clear that the province and the affected municipalities must re-prioritise their budgets.
The party warned the national and provincial governments to release the funds or face a revolt from the people, adding that neglected flood victims were frustrated and boiling with anger. The party warned that if the matter was not urgently attended to, a revolt against the government was imminent.
Williams said that to put the matter into context, in an instance such as the floods where a disaster has been promulgated, Section 56 of the Disaster Management Act caters for the re-prioritisation of funds. The re-prioritisation of funds was also in line with the government’s budgeting system.
In addressing the recent floods, the government embarked on a phased approach, with the first being the immediate humanitarian relief and the second phase, involving reconstruction and repair.
“The R1 billion referred to by President Ramaphosa relates to funding that is catered for in the 2022 Division of Revenue Bill for immediate response through the Provincial Disaster Response Grant and the Municipal Disaster Response Grant. The re-prioritisation of funds from budgets were used to fund immediate needs. As such, there are no delays on the allocation of funds; however, there is a process that must be followed to unlock these funds,” Williams explained.
She said that the processes included provinces and municipalities making applications for these funds to the National Disaster Management Centre and Department of Human Settlement, who in turn, after processing them, submit them to the National Treasury. These funds are available shortly after the National Treasury receives and processes an application.
“It is important to emphasise that the accountability framework has not changed. The procuring departments will have to ensure that procurement and supply chain processes are strictly followed. Government has also put in place additional monitoring measures, through the Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa,” Williams said.
She said the AG will conduct real-time audits on the disaster response funds made available to provide much-needed relief to affected communities. Real-time audits allow non-compliance to be identified early and institutions will be required to correct it.
“Government urges all stakeholders and commentators to engage with factual information and not create panic and confusion,” Williams said.
She said that it had been just over a month since heavy flooding wreaked havoc across parts of KZN, the Eastern Cape and North West. In all these provinces, the government and all stakeholders have been hard at work to recover from these tragic events. Government is mobilising all available resources and undertaking every effort to ensure that, as we rebuild, no-one is left behind.