KZN’s R8 billion deficit under scrutiny

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature. File Picture

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature. File Picture

Published Jul 11, 2024


A whopping R8 billion budget deficit in KwaZulu-Natal's coffers is under scrutiny — with the Health and Education departments fingered as the main culprits responsible for the loss.

This was revealed to IOL by newly appointed chairperson of the provincial health portfolio Committee, Dr Imran Keeka, who vowed to hold officials accountable.

"With a change in government and the composition of government, the problems didn’t simply vanish. The realisation that everything, well almost, is broken is not far-fetched. In fact, in occupying the various seats that we are taking up will certainly bring to the fore what was previously hidden," Keeka told IOL.

The health department in KZN has come under fire over the years amid a high shortage of health professionals including doctors and nurses, irregular spending and rising claims against the Department which stood at R17 billion last year for medical negligence.

Despite this, the Department's Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane, retained her position after the elections, much to the shock of many in the province. Keeka and his party, the DA, have long criticised the performance of Simelane and the Department.

But, with the DA and the ANC now partners in the GNU, concerns have been raised on how officials will now be held to account given this new relationship.

Asked about this, Keeka insisted he will not soften his approach simply because of the GNU.

"The uphill battle starts with the fact that the province already has an R8billion deficit. Health and Education are most affected and also significant culprits. I have no intention to soften my approach in criticising what is not good. Whoever holds public office can never be satisfied until citizens are satisfied," said Keeka.

Accountability, despite the GNU appears to be a key catalyst in driving those part of the new government, with the DA and Patriotic Alliance (PA) leading the pack so far. Their moves, in cracking the whip and laying bare the gravy train spending of their predecessors, has exposed the ANC without having to mention them as a party.

This, says Keeka, speaks of a commitment to change how government works.

"Committees will be constituted with 2 members each from the DA, IFP and ANC, 4 from the MK and 1 from the minorities. The function of the committees is to hold the executive and their departments to account.

“With weak accountability and consequences, things fall apart. In leading the portfolio as the chairperson I will have the responsibility to make sure that accountability is the apex priority. All parties in the committee must have the same vision and we will need to be unwavering in our duty to the citizens of the province," added Keeka.

And, while the province gets cracking on holding those in office accountable, local government too is not being spared.

Former eThekwini city manager Mike Sutcliffe and former Director-General in the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi are also at work in eThekwini.

They've been appointed by the province under Section 154 to strengthen the capacity at local government level. This includes looking into the affairs of the municipality, its officials and all decisions taken over its spending.