26% of drought relief funds spent

Despite the province experiencing widespread drought which has killed thousands of head of livestock and destroyed tons of produce, the provincial government has been dragging its feet in spending millions earmarked for drought relief.

It has so far spent just a quarter of its R95-milliondrought relief budget allocated earlier this year to fight the crippling disaster.

This was revealed yesterday by Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo when he delivered his medium-term budget policy speech during a Bhisho legislature sitting in East London.

Tabling his adjusted budget, Somyo said it was a concern that the province had so far only spent 26% of the R95-millionset aside to assist drought-stricken areas.

The worst-hit areas were in the northern parts of the province, including Aliwal North and parts of the Transkei.

“We need to move speedily [in addressing] the plight of those affected,” he said.Somyo also said the provincial government had adopted an Agricultural Economic Transformation Strategy as a mechanism to enhance growth and job creation in the sector.

“Through the heightening implementation of this strategy, focus will be on three flagship commodities – livestock, grain and horticulture.”

He said an additional grant ofR29-million, through the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, had been allocated to the province by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the delays in spending the drought allocation were the result of shortage in fodder supply and delays in contracting service providers to construct boreholes in the affected areas.

He was adamant theR95-million would be spent by the end of the financial year in March.

Yesterday, Somyo said the R69.59-billion allocated to government departments earlier this year would increase to R69.98-billion.His department would allocate an additional R1-million for the school nutrition programme and R235-million more for learner and teacher supportmaterial.

Another R136-million would be allocated to address challenges pertaining to medico-legal cases which have been crippling the Depar

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