Scopa set to authorise R1bn in overspend

Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) looks set to recommend that more than R1-billion in over-expenditure by five government departments over the past 10 years be authorised, including R45-million in two years by the Presidency alone.

Once authorised by parliament, the expenditure will either be covered by the National Revenue Fund or recovered from the specific department’s baseline budget.

Draft reports for the five departments prepared by the committee recommend that:

• The Social Development Department’s over-expenditure of R26-million dating back to 2007-08 be approved as a direct charge against the fund after the Treasury and the department indicated that the expenditure was not related to negligence or lack of oversight;

• A total of R3.78-million in spending by the Water Affairs Department be authorised against the fund;

• About R37-million in unauthorised expenditure by the Trade and Industry Department be approved as a direct charge against the fund. It included a R6.3-million claim against the department and irrecoverable debt of R31-million; and

• The Home Affairs Department, which incurred massive unauthorised expenditure of more than R1-billion from 2005-06 and 2010-11, would have to pay more than R700-million from its baseline budget with a further R300-million coming from the fund. The reports also indicated that a total of R45-million in unauthorised expenditure was recorded for the Presidency over two financial years.

Listed among the Presidency’s expenditures were unavoidable costs such as the increased incidents of conflict that arose in a number of African countries that could not be anticipated, and increased personnel costs as a result of creating the ministries of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, and National Planning in 2009.

The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa raised concerns about whether over-expenditure on legal fees was as a result of the work of the Presidency or whether the matters were related to the president personally.

ANC MP Mnyami Booi, however, shut down Hlengwa’s suggestion of a better oversight mechanism for Presidency funding, saying it was not Scopa’s job to oversee the Presidency’s funding.

Committee members also objected to a recommendation that the Women, Children and Disabilities Department’s overspend of about R3-million be recovered from its already small budget.

Hlengwa said much of the overspending was as a result of overseas trips taken by the previous minister, and punishing women as a result was unfair.

Booi agreed, saying “patriarchy is the enemy of the people”.

Committee chairman and African People’s Convention MP Themba Godi said the Treasury recommendation came from a purely legal standpoint and it was up to Scopa to make the necessary recommendations to parliament as they saw fit.

-Bianca Capazorio

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