Municipal Infrastructure Grant & School Sporting facilities: Departments of Basic Education, Sport & Recreation and National Treasury briefings

Standing Committee on Appropriations

26 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr E Sogoni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Departments of Basic Education (DBE), Sports and Recreation (SRSA) and National Treasury (NT) had been asked to brief the Committee on the school sports infrastructure funding and responsibilities, which formed part of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). The absence of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) was regretted, although the Committee would invite comments from this Department to complete the briefings. There had been some lack of understanding as to exactly who was responsible for school infrastructure funding and some discussion as to whether infrastructure should indeed be set in place in schools or rather in the communities. A common thread emerging from all discussions was the need to ringfence the funding if anything substantive was to be achieved, since there was no directive as to what exactly must be spent on sports infrastructure, and there were various other competing priorities.

The DBE explained that it was a reality that many schools simply did not have the space for sports fields, let alone the money, although the Department had published a list of norms and standards including those on sports fields. Provinces also tended to prioritise the building of classrooms to avoid overcrowding. DBE suggested that a possible solution would be to cluster schools to share sporting facilities.

SRSA conceded that there were historical imbalances across all provinces and the poorest of the poor were without facilities. Although SRSA had a programme to build sports and recreation facilities up to 2003, it was, from this date, amalgamated into the MIG. There had been a decline even in the number of community sports facilities being built. SRSA supported DBE’s idea of clustering facilities, and was keen to integrate community and school facilities.

The National Treasury noted that municipalities both owned and managed facilities, including those for sport, but that there were also other funding elements such as roads, water and sanitation. There were concerns how to provide facilities in more remote rural areas, whether these should be provided in the community or schools, and whether part of the MIG funding should revert back to SRSA. Local sports needed to be revived so that these facilities could be utilised.

Members agreed that ringfencing of the funding for sports infrastructure was needed, otherwise the whole purpose of it was defeated. Members were concerned that lack of certainty on funding obligations posed a risk of money being appropriated, commented that the formerly white areas had better facilities, asked why planning was not integrated, and asked if there had been targets set for spending. They asked whether the costings included any specifications for sports spending and if facilities existed to enable clustering of facilities, stressed that funding was needed for maintenance as well as provision of facilities, noted that backlogs in other competing responsibilities of municipalities and provinces were a major constraint to progressing with sports infrastructure, and asked what possible solutions might resolve the issue.  


Meeting report

Municipal Infrastructure Grant: School Sports Infrastructure responsibilities
Chairperson's Introductory Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed officials from the National Treasury (NT), Department of Sports and Recreation (SRSA) and Department of Basic Education (DBE). The Committee was disappointed to note that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) was not present, although it had been invited to attend on 19 August 2010. The objective of this meeting was to discuss the school sports infrastructure facilities within the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG), and to establish who was responsible for building school sports infrastructure as some of the parties involved had been suggesting that they did not have a budget provision for this activity. Departments were asked to present on how each understood this issue, and which they believed was responsible for school infrastructure funding.

Department of Basic Education (DBE) submission
Ms Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, said that she too had been disappointed that COGTA was not present. The issue of school sports infrastructure was very important to DBE. The South African Schools Act stated that the provincial MEC was responsible for public schools. DBE recently published norms and standards for schools, that included sports fields, which were currently out for public comment. However, some schools were built with insufficient space for sports facilities. The provinces had also indicated that their budgets had to deal with other needs that competed with sports infrastructure, such as building classroom blocks to avert overcrowding. DBE was of the view that one solution to the sports infrastructure problem might be to cluster schools together to allow them to share sports facilities as it was not possible to provide infrastructure to all the schools. These facilities could be built for schools through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) as the schools were finding it difficult to access community facilities.

Ms M Makhele, Deputy Director, Department of Basic Education, set out and explained the norms and standards, which described in full what constituted a sports facility. It was becoming difficult to address sports infrastructure construction, as the provincial governments had a backlog of work such as rebuilding collapsed schools. DBE made an equitable contribution to the MIG for infrastructure development.

Department of Sports and Recreation submission
Mr Vernon Peterson, Director General, Department of Sports and Recreation, presented the view of his department (SRSA). The MIG did not deal with basic sports facilities at schools but this was provided for under the schools infrastructure grant. There was a need to build an integrated model with other departments such as DBE, and Department of Human Settlements, to look at sports infrastructure and beyond. There were unfortunate historical imbalances in facilities across provinces. The poorest provinces were also those without facilities. SRSA was also responsible for providing norms and standards rather than facilities. SRSA had a programme of building sport and recreation facilities. In 2003 the programme was amalgamated into the MIG. There had been a decline, even from a community perspective, in the number of sports facilities being built. SRSA supported the idea of building facilities that could be used in clusters. SRSA was keen to see an integration between community based facilities and schools. This Department also wanted to move beyond just building facilities but ensuring that communities utilised these facilities optimally.

National Treasury submission
Mr Kenneth Brown, Deputy Director General: Intergovernmental Relations, National Treasury gave the position of the National Treasury (NT). He explained that there were facilities that belonged to the municipality, and that the municipality was responsible to manage, which included sports facilities. There were also facilities in schools, including those for sports. MIG had different elements for funding, such as roads, water and sanitation and sports facilities. The school was an asset within the province so the funding for the school came through the province. The concerns for the future included how best to provide facilities in more remote rural areas, and whether these facilities should be provided in the community or within schools. Another aspect was whether part of the MIG funding should revert back to sports and recreation. Local sports needed to be revived so that these facilities could be utilized.

Discussion
Mr M Swart (DA) stated that the money meant for sports infrastructure under the MIG needed to be ring-fenced, to prevent it from being used for other things as otherwise the whole purpose of allocating the money would be defeated.

Mr Peterson agreed with Mr Swart.

Ms R Mashigo (ANC) asked if the norms and standards of the DBE were similar to that of SRSA. It was important to ensure that the two departments were working together as a cluster.

Ms Ndebele replied that previously there were no standards to guide what a proper school should be like, and instead the norms and standards were aimed at better monitoring of schools.

Ms Mashigo asked why the planning for schools, under the new system incorporating human settlements planning, did not provide enough space to build sports facilities such as rugby or football fields.

Mr Brown replied that there was a need for an integrated planning approach, to ensure that all parties were on board.

Ms Mashigo asked who was responsible for funding the facilities. If nobody knew who was accountable, then there was a risk of misappropriation of funds.

Mr Brown replied that the facilities were supposed to be funded through the MIG, but municipalities had a backlog of other requirements, such as water supply, so they tended to prioritise the most urgent.

The Chairperson stated that the issue of sports facilities boiled down to race in the end, as the formerly white suburbs had sports facilities, whereas the townships did not have these facilities.

Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) said that it was unfortunate that COGTA was not present. He asked if SRSA had reached its targets for the previous year, and if there was any under or over spending.

Mr Petersen replied that infrastructure was not one of the competencies of the National Department, nor of the provincial government, so there were no budgets. Therefore the issue of overspending or under spending did not arise.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) agreed that there was a need for an integrated approach, as no single department could manage to provide for all the needs required under sports and recreation.

Ms Ndebele replied that currently SRSA and DBE were working together to revive sports, and a draft policy document was being prepared.

Mr G Snell (ANC) asked what the costing would be for the current policy of sports infrastructure to be put in practice.

Mr Brown replied that there was a costing mechanism that existed within the three spheres of government.

The Chairperson asked if the MIG that was given to COGTA was itemised to specify how much was meant for sport.

Mr Petersen replied that the MIG was divided into three components listed as A, B and C. 72% was allocated to the B component, which was meant for residential infrastructure such as roads and water services. The C component was allocated 15%, and sports and recreation fell under this component, but also competed with community halls, taxi ranks and other related infrastructure. The problem was that within that component, there was not a further breakdown of the 15% to show what should be allocated to sports infrastructure.

The Chairperson asked if there were facilities to implement the clustering programme of use of sports facilities.

Mr Peterson said there was a need for sports facilities, particularly in rural areas where these were lacking.

The Chairperson asked if COGTA was the right lead department to deal with the MIG.

Mr Peterson replied that SRSA had been in serious consultation with COGTA on the MIG. His Department wanted the money that was currently allocated for sports infrastructure within the MIG to be reallocated directly to the Department of Sports and Recreation.

Mr Snell stated that it was important that schools were funded, to ensure that facilities were maintained. It was not enough simply to provide facilities.

Ms Ndebele replied that that there was a need for DBE to have a conditional grant for school sports facilities. There was also a need to look at the role of municipalities in the maintenance of these facilities.

Mr D Mavundla (ANC) observed that there was no specific allocation of funds for sports and recreation from the DBE budget. He asked if there was any allocation for facilities, which might enable the school to meet the norms and standards.

Mr Petersen replied that there had not been any allocation.

Mr Snell asked what was hindering National departments from ensuring that provincial governments implemented.

Ms Ndebele replied that the one of the constraints was the issue of backlogs, and as long as money for infrastructure was not ring fenced, it would be swallowed by other competing priorities.

Mr Brown added that there was a problem of implementation of provincial budgets, but the Budget Council provided an opportunity to resolve misalignment. Other avenues were the President’s Coordinating Council with the Premiers, or Section 100 of the Constitution, which could be invoked to intervene if priorities were not being met.

Mr Snell stated that the provincial legislature had a responsibility to interrogate the annual strategic plans put before them and then approve of the budgets. The changes and rollovers from NT affected strategic plans, which in turn affected the political outcomes.

Mr Petersen agreed that the money meant for sports infrastructure development needed to be ring fenced. A starting point would be to revise the Division of Revenue Act.

Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) asked if there were constraints to the realisation of government priorities, and whether the existing priorities were enforceable.

Ms Ndebele replied that there were constraints of limited resources and backlogs.

Mr Brown emphasised that government priorities were fully understood, through the various mechanism such as Cabinet lekgotlas.

The Chairperson again said it was regrettable that COGTA was not present. The Committee would invite COGTA to comment. This Committee would also engage with the Portfolio Committee on Sports and Recreation on the issue of sports infrastructure, in order to adopt a uniform stance.

The meeting was adjourned.

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