Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill: Department of Local Government

Local Government (WCPP)

27 November 2019
Chairperson: Mr D America (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee deliberated on Vote 14 in the schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B6 – 2019]. The Minister said that the original budget of R335.4 billion was increased by R6 million. He was satisfied that the Department was doing its best with the allocated budget and that the increase in the appropriation budget would alleviate the tight squeeze caused by budget cuts.

Concerns were raised about the R16 million that the Department was required to surrender to the Provincial Revenue Fund. Members sought clarity on the shifting of R1.8 million from the Department of the Premier for the appointment of additional capacity in relation to forensic services. Members asked whether the Minister was satisfied that enough funding was available to address disasters during summer and raised the concern about the implications of a drought being broken by a flood. Members were relieved to hear that the drought response component was part of the bigger water sustainable plan and that the transfer did not affect the ability to deliver services. Due diligence processes at municipalities made significant transfers. Here the Department was quick to add that it was not fiscal dumping. The Department explained that the R1.8 million was a transfer in and out of the Department. The reasons were not technically different and the department was able to resolve the cost.

When Members asked if money was used for something else or for a specific unit, the Department explained that the money was surrendered to the Provincial Treasury. It was not used but a request was made for the money to be transferred in 2021.

The Minister thanked the Committee for the oversight role that ensured clean governance.

The Bill was adopted by the Committee without amendments. The EFF however abstained due to dissatisfaction with the late distribution of documents.

Minutes of the following meetings were adopted without amendments: 13 August 2019; 1 October 2019; 17 October 2019; and 31October 2019.

The annexures were adopted by the Committee.

Meeting report

The Chairperson invited the Minister and Officials of the Department to brief the Committee on their motivations for the budget adjustments.

Opening remarks by the Minister

Mr Anton Bredell, Minister of Local Government: Western Cape, said that the original budget of R335.4 billion was increased by R6 million. He was satisfied that the Department was doing its best with the allocated budget.

The Chairperson tabled Vote 14 as documented on pages 353 to 368 of the Adjusted Estimates of the Provincial Revenue and Expenditure 2019 report. He granted Committee Members the opportunity to engage the Officials of the Department on the content of the report.

Briefing on the Adjusted Estimates of Provincial Revenue and Expenditure 2019

Discussion

Mr D Mitchell (DA) asked for clarification about the shift of R1.8 million to the Department of the Premier for the appointment of additional capacity in relation to forensic services.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) in referring to savings from the Disaster Management Fund said that it was his impression that summer was the disaster season. He asked whether the Minister was satisfied that enough funding was available to address disasters during summer. He raised the concern about the implications of a drought being broken by a flood. The Local Government was under a lot of pressure, yet the Department was called upon to surrender funds of R16 million. He asked whether the Department was convinced that other requests were more pressing. More than R2 million was taken away from the Water Response Plan and Municipal Water Resilience projects. He stated that this must be the highest priority in support of Local Government.

Mr P Marran (ANC) said that his understanding was that the R16 million was a saving. He questioned the reprioritisation of funds that were related to salaries based on the call of the Minister to reduce spending.

Mr Graham Paulse, Head of the Department (HOD) Local Government: Western Cape, replied that the Department of the Premier was given funding for forensic services to assist the Local Government Department with the high volume of investigations. Discussions were underway to establish capacity in the Department under the guidance of the Minister. Currently, the Department funded the capacity in the Department of the Premier. Funds would be requested from the Provincial Treasury in the next financial year for forensic capacity in the Department. Half of the R5 million for Disaster Management was used to review the Disaster Management function in the province. The remaining R2.5 million was surrendered.

The HOD said that the drought response component was part of the bigger water sustainable plan. The transfer did not affect the ability to deliver services. Due diligence processes at municipalities made significant transfers. He was quick to add that it was not fiscal dumping. Amounts were allocated to support municipalities. The plan was to do the transfers in the main budget to leave municipalities with enough time to spend.

Mr Colin Deiner, Chief Director (CD) Disaster Management and Fire Brigade Services, said that planning was done for the wild fire season. The Department contracted the ‘Working on Fire’ programme to do a risk assessment of the province. Helicopters were strategically placed to ensure that fires could be reached rapidly. The Department contracted additional fire fighters. Flooding was a big issue in specific areas. Flash flood warning systems were developed. For special operations, 160 trained personnel were released to form part of the Task Team. A close hand is kept on expenditure every second week.

Mr Marran requested the HOD to clarify the R16 million classified as ‘Other Adjustments’ on page 359. The Department budgeted for R1.8 million for forensic services in the Department of the Premier. The same amount appeared as an allocation in Programme 2: Local Governance as a reduction in Compensation of Employees (COE) due to staff leaving the Department. He asked why two different reasons were given for the same amount.

Ms Bhavana Sewlall-Singh, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Western Cape Local Government, explained that the R1.8 million was a transfer in and out of the department. The reasons were not technically different and the department was able to resolve the cost.

Mr Mitchell said that the explanation created the impression that it was part of the budget and was based on the assumption that the budget would pass.

Mr Marran asked whether the money was used for something else or for a specific unit.

The HOD explained that the money was surrendered to Provincial Treasury. It was not used but a request was made for the money to be transferred in 2021.

Mr Mitchell subsequently withdrew his previous comment.

Mr D Smith (ANC) asked for an explanation about the additional capacity and asked for clarity about the shifting of money in the Department.

The HOD explained that additional capacity was meant to augment the current capacity.

The Minister thanked the Committee for the oversight role that ensured clean governance. He said that the Department relied on the relationship with the NSRI for the summer period. It was well prepared for the fire season but he was aware of a big fire that was already looming in the Karoo.

The Chairperson thanked the department for their sterling work.

Voting

The Bill was adopted by the Committee without amendments.

The EFF abstained and raised dissatisfaction with the late distribution of documents. Ms Makamba-Botya (EFF) said that it did not allow for meaningful and objective deliberation when documents were distributed a day before the meeting.

Mr Marran felt insulted that the Chairperson requested the HOD to explain the issue of the R16 million in simple terms.

The Chairperson admitted that it was an inappropriate use of language and not intended to undermine the intelligence of anyone. His apology was accepted by Mr Marran.

The Procedural Officer explained that the EFF was allowed to abstain based on the concern raised.

Mr van der Westhuizen said that expressing a minority view did not influence the vote.

The Chairperson replied that this did not present a minority view. 

Mr Smith asked for clarification of the support or non-support for the vote.

Mr Mitchell said that expressing a view should not form part of the report but must be reflected in the minutes of the meeting.

Adoption of Outstanding Minutes

Committee Minutes dated 13 August 2019

The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Committee Minutes dated 1 October 2019

The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Committee Minutes dated 17 October 2019

The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Committee Minutes dated 31October 2019

The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Tabling of Annexures

The annexures were adopted by the Committee.

Mr Marran highlighted the incorrect spelling of the surname of Makamba-Botya. The Chairperson agreed that it was a sensitive matter that should be corrected.

Resolutions

The Chairperson announced that a cluster oversight visit was scheduled for the first week in February 2020. The schedule would be sent to Committee members and further details would be provided by the Procedural Officer.

The meeting was adjourned.

Documents

No related documents

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