A shocking R48.1-billion is used to pay salaries of 144571 public servants in the Eastern Cape.
This constitutes 64.6% of the 2017-18 total provincial budget.
This was cause for concern for opposition parties in the Bhisho legislature who were reacting to the budget allocations presented by finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo yesterday.
UDM’s Thando Mpulu said there was never a problem with budget allocations, but the issue was how the money was spent when it reached the departments.
Mpulu and DA leader at the legislature, Bobby Stevenson, expressed concern in unison that a R48.1-billion wage bill was taking too much out of the R74-billion total budget.
This, they said, was compromising service delivery.
They said the wage and salary bill was too high, despite a decrease by 0.4% from the previous financial year, according to Somyo.
“Our wage bill is too high and I maintain as long as we cannot contain or cut down that wage bill, we will be unable to deliver services,” said Mpulu.
The DA expressed shock at the provincial treasury’s decision to cut the budget for economic development, environmental affairs and tourism by 7% from the previous financial year, saying this department’s main responsibility was to create jobs and ensure economic growth.
The department saw its budget slashed from R1.147-billion from last year to R1.069-billion this year.
This is the department with the mandate to oversee state owned enterprises such as the Coega IDZ and East London IDZ, and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.
Stevenson said Somyo should have instead shaved costs from the exorbitant wage bill by offering early retirement for workers such as those who are on extended sick leave.
“One of the things that could be done is to offer early retirement to those staff people who are 60 and in non-core staff positions,” said Stevenson.
“This province is desperate for job creation and economic growth. How can this happen when the budget for the lead department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism’s budget is decreased by 7%, compared to the previous year?” asked Stevenson.