The Western Cape Department of Local Government presented its adjusted budget to the Standing Committee in a virtual meeting.
The Department said its budget has been cut two times already as a response to the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic. The Department has made total cuts totalling R17.4 million.
Members wanted to know which projects would be affected by the budget cuts. They wanted to know about alternative arrangements that can be made to ensure that projects that are close to completion are completed. Members wanted to know exactly how the budget would be spent. They wanted to know how informal traders are being assisted during the pandemic.
The Budget Vote was adopted.
Introductory remarks by the Minister of Local Government
Mr Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC: Local Government, Environmental Affairs, and Development Planning, thanked the selfless responders assisting with the response to the disaster. He said the original budget allocated to the Department was R313 million and this increased to R346 million. The Department is spending more than R40 million more in providing support to municipalities. For example, 137 municipality food kitchens are feeding over 20 000 people in the George Municipality. In the Swartland Municipality, there are at least 70 feeding schemes. He said these are some of the ways the Department is assisting in humanitarian relief.
Presentation on the adjusted budget
The Chairperson requested that the presenter only present the pertinent parts of the budget because each Member already has copy of the budget.
Mr Graham Paulse, HOD: Local Government, said R17 million has been reprioritised towards the response to Covid-19. Some of these funds were going to municipalities. He said other funds (R27 million) were deployed to assist with the Hotspot Strategy. R49 million in total has been revised with additional funds from provincial.
Charts and tables showed exact figures
Mr D Smith (ANC) said that the NGOs are not receiving any government assistance, and they need to be acknowledged. Municipalities still need to provide services during the pandemic and their income is under pressure. He wanted to know if the Department would render services to the new informal settlements that arose as a result of land grabs. He wanted to know how the spread of Covid-19 will be monitored in those settlements.
Mr Paulse said there is a humanitarian/food relief work stream that meets twice a week, in order see where pressure is being experienced and how they can be attended to. The Department has used NGOs to help with the response within municipalities. It was likely an omission to not mention them alongside the faith-based organisations.
He said R27 million was negotiated with Treasury in order to address the issue of community transmission. Public awareness campaigns have been launched to encourage wearing face masks in public, as well as the decontaminating of high density areas, such as taxi ranks.
He said the Department coordinated with about six municipalities to address loss of revenue. Representations have been made, appealing for the opening up of the economy. He said informal settlements are being monitored. The issue is subject to further discussion with City of Cape Town. He said R14.2 million has been transferred to municipalities. The equitable share to municipalities has also been adjusted.
Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) wanted to know about the amount of R318 000 that was transferred to non-profit and other institutions. What are these institutions? Are they important in the fight against Covid-19? If so, why has their funding not increased? She wanted to know how much of the budget would be allocated for humanitarian relief. Will municipalities be administering this on their own, or will the Department co-ordinate?
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) said the Western Cape will be shown to be among the best provinces when it comes to financial management. How will the respective municipalities report back to the Department regarding the additional support provided? He wanted to know if any non-financial support has been provided.
Ms M Maseko (DA) asked if the Department’s Annual Performance Plans (APPs) would have to be amended as a result f the cuts. She wanted to know about the sustainability of the humanitarian relief.
Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) wanted to know if there is a detailed outline of the ‘Hotspot Strategy’. She wanted to know how the money will be spent. She also wanted to know how informal traders are being assisted. She asked if the Minister or HOD could explain the underspending of the USDG.
Mr P Marran (ANC) asked about the City of Cape Town’s Mayor giving out food parcels. He wanted to know if this was a part of the City’s allocations. He wanted to know about the City’s practice of deducting up to 100% of prepaid electricity purchases to service residents’ debt, for services rendered.
Mr Paulse said the funds have been allocated to municipalities and districts on a pre-determined criteria. He says an app has been developed. The app allows for the tracking of the humanitarian relief, by having users upload pictures of their efforts. He said a permit that is more helpful to informal traders has been developed and sent to all municipalities. He said some municipalities are even considering a zero increase in tariffs. He said it is apparent that APPs would most likely be affected. He said a breakdown would be provided at a later stage. With regards to the sustainability of the human relief effort, this is something being considered by the work stream that meets twice a week.
Consideration and adoption of the Committee Budget Vote Report
The Chairperson thanked the Department and said they are welcome to leave the meeting.
Mr van der Westhuizen proposed the Report be adopted.
Ms Maseko seconded the motion.
Mr Smith expressed the minority view not to support the Report.
The Report was adopted.
The Chairperson thanked everyone and the meeting was adjourned.
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