Home News NC govt redirects R529m towards Covid-19 response

NC govt redirects R529m towards Covid-19 response

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The Department of Health will receive an additional R630 million from the provincial government, together with other grants, to deal with the outbreak.

File image. Picture: Reuters

THE NORTHERN Cape provincial government has made R529 million available to cover the Province’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Health will receive an additional R630 million from the provincial government, together with other grants, to deal with the outbreak. 

This includes funds for payment of more staff, additional oxygen capacity, more beds and field hospitals, as well as ventilators and the establishment of quarantine and isolation facilities.

The Department of Education meanwhile will receive an additional R193 million. This includes R60 million to cover the costs of hygiene packs for schools, R27.7 million to disinfect buildings, R27 million to address overcrowding at schools and R24 million for the appointment of Covid screeners.

This was announced on Wednesday by the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Abrahams Vosloo, during the Northern Cape Special Adjustment Appropriation Bill for the 2020/21 financial year.

Presenting the Adjustment Bill, Vosloo pointed out that the funds had been sourced from all departments in the Province except the social sector.

“Conditional grants have also been repurposed towards Covid-19.”

The original equitable share baseline amounted to R14.289 billion which has now been adjusted upward with an additional amount of R6.2 million from the National Disaster Management Fund. 

This R6.2 million has been earmarked for the Department of Health for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for health professionals across the Province.

Vosloo pointed out that of the R14.296 billion budget, a total of R529 million was redirected towards the Covid-19 response.

Conditional grants have meanwhile been adjusted downwards by R295 million, to a revised baseline of R4.247 billion. “This reduction is part of the repurposing of grants by the respective national departments.” 

Some of the notable changes in the conditional grants allocations include a reduction of R186 million from the Provincial Roads and Maintenance Grant, an amount of R22.6 million from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Grant, while the Education Infrastructure Grant has been reduced by R82 million.

Vosloo pointed out that with the lockdown and impact on business activity, it was not a surprise that the Province’s own revenue baseline, which is made up mostly from motor vehicle licences, health patient fees and casino taxes, had also been negatively affected. 

“Accordingly, we had to revise our initial estimates down with an amount of R86 million, effectively reducing the original baseline from R426 million to R341 million.” 

He stated that the net effect of these adjustments, when compared to the original budget, was a downward adjustment of R381 million. 

“This has resulted in the Province’s total receipts for the 2020/21 financial year amounting to R18.884 billion.”

Vosloo added that of the R529 million that had been allocated towards the Covid-19 response, R396.8 million had been added to the budget of the Department of Health as part of the Covid-19 response.

In addition, a total of R20 million has been allocated to the Department of Social Development to augment food parcel distribution. 

“The remaining amount of R112 million is set aside towards the economic sector as an economic recovery package to fund projects with immediate and tangible job creation opportunities.”

Vosloo pointed out that a few of the Province’s local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) had managed to access debt relief funds from the national Department of Small Business.

“Of  the 1 501 SMMEs assisted across the country, 39 are from the Northern Cape and the costs of these packages amount to R11.7 million, resulting in the protection of 359 jobs across various sectors in the Province.

“It is for this reason that we have also set aside an amount of R112 million to invest in job creation projects.”

According to Vosloo, a total amount of R630 million (including conditional grants) has been prioritised towards Covid-19 in the Department of Health.

This is made up of R396.8 million, that was allocated as a top-up on the equitable share as part of the province’s Response towards Covid-19; an amount of R100 million that was reprioritised from the Comprehensive HIV and Aids Grant towards Covid-19-dedicated component within the grant; R6.2 million was added as an additional amount from the Disaster Relief Fund; R76.6 million was shifted within the equitable share towards the Covid-19 response in the department; and R51 million is also shifted from other grants towards the Covid-19 priority spending.

The following areas have been prioritised for funding in the Department of Health: R181 million is earmarked towards additional capacity for staffing requirements for the department, which includes the recruitment of mainly clinical posts to ensure that the department can cope with the additional patients in the system; while R18 million has been put aside to expand the current oxygen capacity for both low and high flow requirements and the installation of additional oxygen capacity in all districts, regional and tertiary hospitals as well as community health care centres. 

A further amount of R80.5 million will be utilised for additional 30-bed structures, also known as field hospitals, which will be set up at all hospitals where the need arises. This will allow the department to provide both high care and intensive care services.

As part of the provincial strategy to open more beds and areas for the treatment and care for patients, clinicians will require more tools to support patients during this pandemic, this includes additional ventilators, additional hospital beds and other health technology equipment, and accordingly, an amount of R130.8 million will be spent for these priorities.

An additional R72 million will go towards setting up relevant quarantine and isolation facilities across all districts in the Province.

As part of the recovery plan of the Department of Education, all programmes and projects that are not Covid-19 related have been stopped and shifted towards the Province’s Covid-19 response in that sector. In line with this R193.5 million has been shifted from the Education Infrastructure Grant to cater for the following priorities: R60 million will be used towards the hygiene packs for schools; R4 million is directed to other hygiene items for offices; an amount of R27.7 million will be used to disinfect buildings; R5.5 million is earmarked for the repairs of vandalised schools in the Province; while the provision of water and sanitation in schools is also prioritised at an amount of R47 million. 

A total of R20 million will be used to address overcrowding in schools; R24.8 million for the appointment of Covid-19 screeners; and R1.5 million for the installation of alarm systems in schools.

With respect to Social Development, the provincial government has implemented various interventions aimed at the most vulnerable in communities.

“Through partnerships with the private sector and the Solidarity Fund, to date 63 128 households have benefited from the provincial Covid-19 social relief of distress food security programme, at a cost of R56 million.

“The opening of early childhood development centres will result in the Department of Social Development spending an additional R11.5 million on nutrition support for 15 000 children who are currently subsidised by the department. An additional R8 million is also set aside to assist early childhood development centres to comply with Covid-19 regulations in terms of safety measures and basic hygiene.

“We are mindful that these interventions are not sufficient, given the nature and scale of the challenges faced by our communities in terms of food security. However, these interventions must be seen in addition to the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant of which approximately 100 000 people in the Province have thus far benefited, the provision of social grants (benefiting 479 704 people in the Northern Cape) and the School Nutrition Programme from the Department of Education.”

Vosloo added that other departments would also embark on some work in line with their respective mandates.

“The Department of Transport, Safety, and Liaison has prioritised an amount of R3 million from the Public Transport Operations Grant to procure personal preventative materials mainly in the public transport sector.”

The department of Sport, Arts and Culture has already paid R4.4 million towards supporting 107 beneficiaries in the sport, arts and culture sectors, while the Department of Economic Development has set aside an amount of R7.8 million to support the clothing cluster.