Drought relief millions not flowing

DROUGHT DELAYS: MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, right, on one of his agricultural visits in the Eastern Cape
DROUGHT DELAYS: MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, right, on one of his agricultural visits in the Eastern Cape
Despite the province experiencing widespread drought, which has killed hundreds of head of livestock and destroyed tons of produce, the provincial government has been dragging its feet in spending millions earmarked for drought relief.

The provincial government has so far spent just a quarter of its R95-million drought 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.

The legislature has this week been sitting at the East London Christian Centre in Abbotsford as part of their joint Taking Legislature and Parliament to the People, with the National Council of Provinces.

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

The worst-hit areas were those in the northern parts of the province, including areas around Aliwal North and some in the former Transkei region, including Mnquma and Mbhashe municipalities.

Somyo said yesterday his office was “not satisfied” with the provincial government’s pace of spending while trying to address the matter.

“We need to move speedily in accelerating the way we address the plight of those who are affected.”

Somyo also told the sitting that the provincial government had adopted an Agricultural Economic Transformation Strategy as a mechanism to enhance growth and job creation in the agricultural sector.

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

Somyo said an additional grant of R29-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 yesterday the delays in spending the drought allocation was a result of shortage in fodder supply and delays in contacting service providers to construct boreholes in the affected areas.

“I received a briefing that during the time of spending this money, the fodder itself became a difficulty to source. I don’t know how many provinces have experienced this drought, but there was a problem with its supply.

“We also wanted to invest about R30-million in the drilling of boreholes which is a matter that must go for tendering processes,” said Qoboshiyane, who added that he had instructed his office to not spend money recklessly.

Qoboshiyane was adamant the entire R95-million would be spent by the end of the financial year next March.

He said part of the allocation would be invested in “developing our own fodder bank” and that once that was done and the government invoiced for such, “we will see the movement in expenditure”.

Qoboshiyane said the most affected areas were those in the interior, including some parts of Sarah Baartman, Amathole, OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts.

Delivering his medium-term budget adjustment yesterday, Somyo said the R69.59-billion allocated to government departments earlier this year would increase to more than R69.98-billion.

He also revealed that his department would allocate an additional R11-million for the school nutrition programme and an additional R235-million for the learner teacher support material.

Another R136-million will be allocated to address the challenges that pertain to medico-legal cases. — asandan@dispatch.co.za