Bhisho wage bill growing

DRESSED TO THE NINES: Top of the fashion stakes at the budget speech in Bisho yesterday were MPLs, from left, Tamara Xhanti, Nomachule Quvile, Nomvuzo Gingo and Nomvula Ponco. Picture by: Mike Holmes
DRESSED TO THE NINES: Top of the fashion stakes at the budget speech in Bisho yesterday were MPLs, from left, Tamara Xhanti, Nomachule Quvile, Nomvuzo Gingo and Nomvula Ponco. Picture by: Mike Holmes

No cut in staff numbers despite promises, budget constraints

DESPITE committing to trim down Bhisho’s bloated administration for the last three years, Eastern Cape government bosses have failed to do so and instead increased the province’s salary bill.

The province’s wage bill will rise by 6.4% in the 2015/16 financial year, Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo announced during his budget speech tabled at the Bhisho legislature yesterday.

This means instead of dropping its wage bill for non-essential civil servants, Bhisho will spend about 65% of its R65-billion total budget on salaries to accommodate anticipated annual increases and to hire much-needed medical professionals and infrastructure specialists.

About 86% of the provincial Education Department’s budget will go to staff salaries. The rest will be distributed to school infrastructure, pupil transport and learning material, among other expenses.

Last year, then MEC of Finance Phumulo Masualle said there were a number of staff who could no longer work but remained on the government’s payroll.

Delivering his maiden speech at the Bhisho legislature yesterday, Somyo touched briefly on the growing salary bill.

“Over the [year] all provincial departments will be required to finalise and approve their organisational structures.

“[But] we face a potential risk on the containment of personnel costs due to failure to conclude the public sector wage agreement, which will put further pressure on the budget,” he said.

In his report on the estimates of provincial revenue and expenditure, Somyo said the compensation of employees budget would increase by 6.4%, making up R42.4-billion of the total budget.

“Personnel numbers over 2015 are showing an increase mainly due to the Department of Health evidently employing medical professionals and the Department of Roads and Public Works envisaging employing infrastructure specialists.”

Bhisho has had to shoulder a R5.1-billion decrease from Treasury between 2013 and 2016. When Weekend Post questioned Somyo on the increasing salary bill, he said they were still focused on only hiring core staff, but they were awaiting the outcome of the national negotiations about the salary increases of all public servants.

The departments receiving the bulk of the budget are:

Education: R29.4-billion ý Health: R18.4-billion

Roads and Public Works: R4.25-billion; and

Human Settlements: R2.2- billion.

The DA’s shadow MEC for finance, Bobby Stevenson, said he was disappointed that there were no “gamechanger announcements”.

He said the DA would free money from 6 000 “double parked” teachers which cost the province R1-billion, and save R1.96-billion a year by offering retirement packages to non-core staff over 60.

EFF MPL Dinga Peter questioned whether the government was getting value for money with all its staff.

“The province doesn’t seem to be going forward. There’s still no clean audits, so are the staff salaries value for their work?” Peter asked.

-Rochelle de Kock

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