The Standing Committee on Appropriations met to consider and adopt three items on its agenda:
a motion of desirability; the Committee’s Report on the Appropriations Bill [B4-2020]; and the minutes of three previous Committee meetings. The Bill which seeks to appropriate money from the National Revenue Fund for the requirements of the state for the 2020/21 financial year, to prescribe conditions for the spending of funds withdrawn for the 2021/22 financial year before the commencement of the Appropriation Act, and to provide for matters incidental thereto.
The adoption follows consideration and briefings from various stakeholders which include amongst others, National Treasury, the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) and the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). It also follows the consideration of numerous written and oral submissions received from the public during its public hearings held on Friday, 5 June 2020.
Included in its Report is the notice that the Bill proposes major budget baseline expenditure reductions and reprioritisation of funds in line with government’s proposed fiscal consolidation policy through a total of R66.045 billion reductions in the budget baseline.
Of the proposed R66.045 billion baseline reduction, the Bill proposes an R28.238 billion in programme baseline reductions, and although the Committee supports the government’s fiscal policy stance, it has highlighted its concerns about the possible unintended negative impact the programme baseline reductions might have on service delivery, particularly those services rendered by the government to the poor.
Further included in its Report, the Committee emphasises the need for government departments to always ensure efficient, economic and effective use of appropriated funds in line with the principles set out in section 195 of the Constitution and other relevant legislation governing the use of public funds, and applicable to the Republic of South Africa.
With this said, the Committee is mindful of the fact that budget assumptions and allocations that the 2020 Appropriation Bill proposes are no longer valid due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, the Committee urges government departments to spend the allocated resources in a manner that is reflective of the negative impact that Covid-19 brings to the South African public purse.
The Report will be tabled for consideration and debate scheduled to take place in the National Assembly on Friday, 12 June 2020 at 10 am.
The Chairperson, after dealing with apologies and establishing that the Committee was quorate, proceeded to read the motion of desirability, and asked if there was any mover for its adoption.
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) moved the adoption, and Mr O Mathafa (ANC) seconded. The Chairperson announced that the motion of desirability had therefore been adopted.
The next item on the agenda was the adoption of Committee’s draft Report on the Appropriations Bill. The Committee Secretary was asked to give a brief overview of the Report.
The Secretary said the Draft Report had been developed with the help of entities that worked in conjuncture with the Committee. It had findings from previous investigations and provided detailed recommendations on issues that needed to be addressed. The Report had been sent to Members for their perusal, and they had added inputs in return.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Report covered everything that had been discussed within the Committee. He asked the Members to add any further inputs in light of the adoption of the Report.
A Member pointed out a grammatical error in paragraph 2 of the overview, another in section 5.10, and suggested the removal of the word “priorities” in the last line of section 5.12. He also argued that the sentence construction of line 1, section 5.18, was ambiguous and did not convey the message that the Committee wanted to convey.
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) said that the sentence could be fixed, but maintained that it did convey the message of the Committee accurately as it was.
Mr Sifiso Magagula, Committee Content Advisor, suggested that the Committee leave section 5.18 because it was a true reflection of the message the Committee wanted to convey, adding that the statement made sense as it was.
Mr Mathafa agreed that the section made sense it it was.
The Chairperson said there would therefore be no changes made to section 5.18 on the basis that Members felt it was a true reflection of the message conveyed by the Committee.
Ms D Peters (ANC) said she had a concern that the structure of the Adjustment Budget had not been addressed adequately.
The Chairperson said he had discussed this matter with the Secretary. The Committee did not want to pre-empt the Adjustment Budget, as it was still busy with the Appropriation Bill. Work was being done on the Adjustment Budget, although it was not as pronounced as perhaps Ms Peters had anticipated. The Adjustment Budget topic was not as loud as it should be, but it was definitely not being muted.
The Chairperson put the Report on the table for adoption, with the proposed amendments.
Ms Peters moved the adoption, and was seconded by Mr A Sarupen (DA).
The Chairperson announced that the Report had been duly adopted, with no opposition, with the amendments.
He thanked the support staff who helped in the development of the Report, and the media for joining in to inform the people of South Africa of the work that was being done in Parliament.
He asked the Secretary to inform the Members what the next step in the progress of the Report was.
The Secretary said the Report would be tabled for debate in Parliament on Friday, 12 June 2020.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would consider the minutes from its previous meetings.
Three sets of minutes were considered and adopted.
The Chairperson announced that the minutes of all the meetings had been duly adopted, and asked the Secretary to give any relevant announcements.
The Secretary said the only announcement was that the Adjustment Budget would be tabled on 24 June 2020.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee was going from one appropriation to the other, and Members should expect that they would have to work hard. The Committee would meet on Friday for the debate on the Appropriation Bill.
The meeting was adjourned.
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