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NC Provincial Legislature set to slash salary budget by R32m over next two financial years

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Delivering the budget vote, the legislature Speaker Newrene Klaaste stated that the compensation of employees represented 80 percent of the budget cuts.

Picture: Ian Landsberg/ Afrcan News Agency (ANA).

THE NORTHERN Cape Provincial Legislature (NCPL) is anticipated to have its salary budget slashed by about R32 million over the next two financial years.

Delivering the budget vote, the legislature Speaker Newrene Klaaste stated that the compensation of employees represented 80 percent of the budget cuts.

She stated that the legislature had not been able to accumulate sufficient reserves over the past years.

“Due to the decline in economic conditions, the institution has been forced to utilise the reserves to finance some of the activities to minimise the impact of the economic and budget constraint. The legislature utilised approximately R38 million of the reserves in the previous three years to finance those activities which could not be funded by the Provincial Revenue Fund.

“Consequently, the reserves accumulated were depleted. It is anticipated that reserves will remain depleted in the outer years of the medium term expenditure framework period amounting to further budget cuts, expected despite constant cost of living increasing.”

Klaaste indicated that the legislature would be forced to consider serious cost cutting measures to ensure that unauthorised expenditure was incurred.

“Although the institution has been consistent in applying the cost containment, the contractual obligations remain to be significant cost drivers. These costs are unavoidable and are contractual bound. Due to consistent budget cuts, the institution is likely to find itself in a position where these contracts cannot be honoured. As a result, the institution is likely to attract unexpected costs associated with non-adherence to the contractual obligations.”

She added that the Office of the Auditor General fees was the main contractual obligation cost driver where fees increased on a yearly basis.

“The legislature is bound to subject its financial affairs to the scrutiny of the Auditor General (AG) and the legislature is obliged to pay the fees within agreed terms. The legislature is currently budgeting three percent of its total goods and services particularly for AG fees while the contractual obligation exceeds the budget with seven percent in 2021-22 budget year. The legislature will be forced to enter into a repayment agreement with the AG or consider ring-fence the obligation to the outer financial years.”

Klaaste stated that key spending areas included travelling and subsistence allowances, although it had demonstrated a significant decline in spending patterns over the lockdown. “Spending on airtime and data increased. The legislature is intending to defray the increase in items of goods and service with slow spending on other items of goods and services.

“Cost containment has been our primary measure and has been applied consistently to ensure that budget is utilised optimally without compromising on quality and standards.”

She indicated that the 2020/’21 budget was exceeded by a net amount of R1,8 million.

“The legislature did not identify any irregular expenditure other than irregular expenditure recommended by AG to be disclosed. For the 2020/’21 financial year, the legislature has identified R9 200 relating to fruitless and wasteful expenditure as a result of late payment attracting interest. Although the figure is insignificant, the root cause for such expenditure can be associated with lock down regulation. The amount incurred is currently under investigation.”

Klaaste stated that the legislature was in the process of procuring an electronic system to digitise committee proceedings such as agendas, minutes, attendance registers and committee reports.

She said work had already started and that they were hoping to pay for this system with donor funds.

“The system will synchronise the work of the house and its committees. Through the use of the system it will be easy for members of the provincial legislature to track committee decisions and reports presented in the house.

“We are also in the process of developing an integrated public participation plan and a hybrid public hearing model to enable the legislature to continue and achieve its constitutional mandate of involving the public in the processes of the legislature. We want to be able to reach our electorate even if we might not be able to meet face to face with them owing to the current challenges of Covid-19.”

She added that the legislature was also procuring a mobile web app that was available to apple and android devices for live audio streaming services and podcasts.

“Listeners will have direct access to various media platforms on the app. The application will allow all committee meetings and house proceedings to be live streamed.

“The meeting recordings will also be made available as podcasts after the live recordings have ended.

“The application can be utilised as an NCPL online community radio station that offers audio content and citizen engagements on legislation, oversight and public participation. Important to note that this mobile app will be functional in the current financial year once additional requisite equipment has been sourced.”

Klaaste stated the chamber equipment, technology and related technical equipment would be upgraded during the year to better accommodate virtual and hybrid house sittings and live streaming.

Budget allocation 2021/’22: R216, 6 million.

Administration: R72 million.

Facilities for members and political parties: R64 million

Parliamentary business: R52 million