Call for clarity: Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe’s office has been asked to explain a mandate granting the Presidency powers over budget prioritisation. Picture: SUPPLIED
Call for clarity: Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe’s office has been asked to explain a mandate granting the Presidency powers over budget prioritisation. Picture: SUPPLIED

Parliament’s standing committee on finance has called Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe to explain a mandate paper that gives his department powers over budget prioritisation instead of the Treasury.

The DA has also raised concern about who is in charge of budget prioritisation.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is due to make his medium-term budget policy statement on Wednesday against the backdrop of a constrained fiscal environment characterised by declining tax revenue, an issue crystallised by the fact that the South African Revenue Service is projected to have a R40bn collection shortfall on a revised target.

In September, Radebe outlined the details contained in the mandate paper, which is meant to guide the Treasury on the budgeting process and spending priorities. The paper identified higher education, social security and job creation as priorities. Also in September, Treasury insiders told Business Day that there was concern the mandate paper could create confusion around the budgeting process. Radebe countered that his department was working closely with the Treasury.

Standing committee on finance chairman Yunus Carrim said Radebe had been called to explain the mandate paper and the powers it gave his office over budget prioritisation.

"If the Presidency changes the prioritisation of the budget, it goes without saying that, we would have to call them before the committee and clarify it," said Carrim. "The Presidency now provides a framework for the budget in terms of the governance medium-term strategic framework, which is the current five-year implementation plan [of the National Development Plan]. So we have invited Minister Jeff Radebe to explain to the committee what the priorities are that government wants the budget to address."

While questions would arise about the new approach in the budget process and the relationship between the Treasury and the Presidency, in principle this had been in discussion within the alliance for decades, he said.

"The main difference now is that the Presidency — via Jeff Radebe — will have to appear before us to explain the framework within which the [mini-budget] ... will be operating. What strategies are going to be implemented and what is the broad framework?"

The centralisation of decision making on budget priorities in Radebe’s office and last week’s cabinet reshuffle gave signals that undermined efforts by Gigaba to calm anxiety, DA MP David Maynier said. There was confusion about the working process of the mandate paper and no clarity between the Treasury and the Presidency on budget prioritisation, he said.

Maynier’s request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act for access to the mandate paper was declined.

Stanley Ntakumba, the deputy information officer in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said the department was unable to grant the request as the mandate paper was "a classified cabinet record". Gigaba’s spokesman, Mayihlome Tshwete, could not be reached for comment.

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