Pandemic tightens KwaZulu-Natal's budget
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Durban - The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the government’s budgets and KwaZulu-Natal has been no exception, as the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) contraction amounts to R26billion in the province alone.
This is according to KZN premier Sihle Zikalala, who delivered the budget vote of the Office of the Premier yesterday.
While the national government announced a R500bn relief package, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that R130bn of that would be funded from within existing government financial resources. The national departments are expected to contribute R100bn, while all nine provinces contributed R30bn.
Zikalala said that this meant that the provincial budget that was tabled in March must be reprioritised and funds be redirected towards funding the Covid-19 response.
Utilising the provincial equitable share formula, KwaZulu-Natal’s contribution to the R30bn is R6.2bn for the 2020/21 financial year.
Zikalala said that in undertaking the reprioritisation process, the province had excluded the departments of Health, Education and, to some extent, Social Development.
The remaining departments were expected to present their budget votes in the course of this week.
“We have put all control measures in place to ensure that as we respond to the Covid-19 crisis. We have already acted timeously and are investigating in areas where allegations of wrongdoing have been reported. We will report on these once investigations are concluded.”
Addressing the KZN Legislature during a virtual meeting, Zikalala announced that the total budget for the Office of the Premier for the 2020/21 financial year was R800.1million. An amount of R96.6m had been budgeted for the premier’s priority programmes in the 2020/2021 financial year.
The premier’s priority programmes include Operation Sukuma Sakhe, Inkululeko Development Project, the Multi-sectoral Provincial Response to HIV and Aids, TB and STIs, Implementation of the Poverty Eradication Master Plan, and support to His Majesty the King and the Royal House.
In 2020/2021, the King Support and Royal House Branch has been allocated R71.3m.
The King and Royal House support comes in the form of co-ordination and management of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s traditional and cultural events, providing logistical services, and the maintenance of royal palaces. It also includes support to the King’s agricultural activities and looking after the well-being of the Royal House, through the KZN Zulu Royal House Trust.
“The role of the Zulu monarchy, as a key institution in a democratic dispensation, is well recognised by the provincial government. In the sixth administration, the monarch still plays a crucial role in supporting government programmes and preserving culture,” Zikalala said.
He added that the Zulu Royal House Trust would continue to render its services to the Royal House, including “a much sharper focus on revenue-generating activities”.
The trust will also perform upgrades, repairs and maintenance to all eight royal palaces.
Zikalala also said areas of focus would be strengthening the provincial administration through fighting corruption and improving the audit outcomes of departments, paying people on time and fighting fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
He announced a R70-million youth empowerment initiative dubbed Sukuma 100 000 which will coordinate and ensure that 100 000 young people are supported with opportunities for entrepreneurial activity in order to curb youth unemployment.
In response to the budget vote, provincial leader of the DA,
Zwakhele Mncwango, called on Zikalala to “lead from the front” and commit to increased accountability, improved governance and greater transparency.
Mncwango said the call came amid concern around the KZN Cabinet’s refusal to disclose a comprehensive breakdown of Covid-19 cases in the province, including case numbers per local municipalities and townships.
In response to the budget, Mncwango said the test of the budget would be in its implementation.
“The reality of Covid-19 is that a new economic growth strategy is needed in KZN and that the premier and his office must play a big role in this. It is also the Office of the Premier that must lead by example and ensure co-ordination and efficiency across all departments.”