David Makhura. Picture: SOWETAN
David Makhura. Picture: SOWETAN

The Gauteng government has failed to spend R3.1bn in the 2018-19 financial year, including almost R1bn by the education department meant for building schools and buying desks and for pupil-support material.

This emerges from the provincial department’s annual reports due to be tabled in the provincial legislature by the end of October. The reports show underspending across several departments but not by the office of the premier.

The pattern of underspending  is damning for a provincial government that has faced many service delivery protests and whose politicians and senior civil servants often give the lack of financial resources as a reason for non-delivery.

Gauteng treasury spokesperson Tshepo Shawa confirmed that the provincial government had failed to spend large chunks of its budget for the 2018-19 financial year.

The education department underspent nearly R1bn of its R45.7bn and the health department failed to spend more than R751m of its R46.7bn allocation. The social development department failed to spend more than R419m of its R4.6bn budget. The roads and transport department failed to spend R356m of its R7.9bn allocation. 

The sports, arts, culture and recreation department failed to spend more than R126m of the R1bn allocated to it while the agriculture and rural development department did not spend more than R107m of its R997m budget.

Shawa said the provincial treasury was continuously improving its planning and budgeting across the province.

R 1bn

The amount the Gauteng department of education has not spent, among others due to a moratorium enforced by unions on filling vacant teacher posts

“We do this to ensure that provincial priorities are strategically funded and that the budget is spent on programmes that meet the service delivery needs of citizens. Gauteng is committed to ensure that we spend 100% of the allocated budget to meet the service delivery needs of citizens,” he said.

Last week finance and e-government MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko expressed concern that the human settlements department received a disclaimer audit opinion. This means it had provided insufficient evidence, in the form of documentation, on which to base an audit opinion.

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department underspent on the filling of posts because of a moratorium placed on advertising and filling posts.

The moratorium was a result of the department and labour failing to reach an agreement on the number of teachers needed in the province.

He said the underspending mainly related to delays in finalising the procurement of school furniture, expired contracts for the school feeding scheme, and the challenges in transporting pupils.

Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the bulk of the unspent budget was for the human papillomavirus vaccination to prevent cervical cancer among Grade 4 girls in all public and special schools.

“There were reasons for underspending which included but were not limited to late receipt of invoices. A number of nonprofit institutions did not meet the qualifying funding criteria,” she explained.

Roads and transport spokesperson Theo Nkonki confirmed that his department had failed to spend R356m and attributed the failure to the procurement process and appointment of staff.

In September, Times Select reported that the Gauteng department of infrastructure development budgeted more than R620m for 14 construction projects, yet all it had to show for this was terminated contracts and shoddy or incomplete workmanship.

One of these projects dates back to 2015, while the other 13 tenders were awarded in 2017.

In August, Gauteng premier David Makhura promised two new hospitals would be built in Hammanskraal and Soshanguve to ease pressure on the disgraced Jubilee and Dr George Mukhari hospitals. However, it later came to light that there was no budget available for these projects.

Makhura’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, said the provincial government was looking at strengthening the provincial delivery unit in order to monitor spending by government departments.

“This unit will be the eyes and ears of the premier to ensure that we do not get shocked at the end of the financial year that departments have failed to spend their entire budgets,” Mhaga said.