Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Gauteng government has been forced to increase its budget by billions of rand due to millions of people flocking to the country’s economic hub, stretching services such as healthcare and education.

Outgoing MEC for Finance Barbara Creecy on Tuesday revealed the pressure put on the province’s finances when tabling this year’s R132billion budget at the provincial legislature.

More than 80% of the budget was directed to social spending, including education, healthcare and social services.

This was the last budget of the fifth administration under Premier David Makhura before the provincial and national elections in May.

Creecy said while the provincial government did all in its power to grow the provincial economy and provide social services, demands on finances were growing and had resulted in the budget increasing by R9.2bn compared with the previous financial year.

“Our population has increased to 14.7million. Our public health system serves 20million healthcare users per annum and our education system now has 2.3million learners,” Creecy explained.

She added that the provincial government had increased its own revenue to 5% of the total budget, at R6.3bn.

“A combination of improved own revenue collection, a more creative approach to off-budget financing and tight financial management has enabled us to meet the ever-growing demand for public services,” she said.

During his State of the Province Address, Makhura said that despite the outstanding track record of delivering 1.2million houses in the province, the backlog remained stubbornly high at more than 1million due to rapid urbanisation and the high rate of in-migration.

Healthcare has received R50.8bn, the largest share of the budget, with R310m of the R30bn personnel allocation being set aside for the absorption of community health workers.

About R300m was set aside for the compensation of the families of the Life Esidimeni tragedy victims. Another R150m of the health budget was allocated to obtain suitable office accommodation following the Bank of Lisbon Building fire, which claimed the lives of three firefighters last year.

Roads and transport have received R7.8bn and human settlements R6.21bn.

Creecy said the provincial government was proud it had managed to use its significant procurement spend to boost township economies and further its economic transformation objectives.

“Over the past five years Gauteng has spent R74bn on procuring good and services from businesses owned by historically disadvantaged individuals.

“This includes procuring R20bn worth of goods and services from women-owned enterprises, R9bn from youth-owned enterprises and R22bn on township entrepreneurs,” she said.

The Education Department came second in terms of allocation at R49.4bn. The Economic Development Department was allocated R1.6bn to lead the drive for economic transformation and recovery, Creecy said.

As part of stepping up the fight against corruption, the provincial government has set aside R291m, with R23m of this being allocated to the integrity management unit in Makhura’s office, R151m for auditing service and risk management, R47m for forensic services and another R47m for the Premier’s Hotline for whistle-blowers.

Creecy added that government departments had also improved their financial management and compliance over the past five years, with 100% of unqualified audits from all departments and entities for three years in a row – 65% of them being clean audits.

“I have no doubt that the significant progress we have achieved in this term in establishing a culture of transparency, public accountability and credible financial controls can, if sustained in the next term, ensure the provincial government achieves its target of 100% clean audits,” she said.

On local government, an additional R65m has been allocated to beef up service delivery to distressed municipalities, while R22m will be set aside in the next three years to help municipalities develop capacity, and integrity and ethics management.

Political Bureau