Yesterday, the Minister of Finance Mr Nene delivered his first Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS). We welcome the small increases provided in the MTBPS, however these will not be enough to meet the targets and deadlines set by the norms and standards for school infrastructure. We are concerned by the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) capacity to implement the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) and provide infrastructure to learners who attend unsafe and substandard schools. In addition, we are very disappointed that scholar transport was not mentioned in the MTBPS, taking into account that thousands of the poorest learners in deep rural areas walk long distances to access schooling.
Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG)
The proposed Division of Revenue Amendment Bill, highlights that all the allocations given to provinces for the implementation of the EIG in the 2014/15 financial year have seen no mid-year adjustments, other than the Western Cape, which has received an additional R397 million. The non-reduction of funds suggests that provinces have been spending their money well. However, EE remains concerned about the transparency of the EIG when it comes to implementation. Currently, the infrastructure project lists provided in the provincial education department votes, are the only publically available information on EIG performance. However, these lists do not provide a clear indication of the scope of the projects. It is difficult to decipher what in fact is being planned to be delivered. Without the availability of planning documents, clear targets, reporting against targets, it is difficult for Parliament and ordinary citizens to hold the Department of Basic Education (DBE) accountable.
EE is pleased to see that National Treasury is proposing to increase funds available to provinces for the implementation of the EIG over the medium term. EE welcomes the 29% increase between the 2014/15 and 2015/16 financial years, where the proposed allocation shifts from approximately R7 billion to R9,4 billion. This is in line with the statement in the MTBPS that, “allocations proposed over the MTEF period for school infrastructure will ensure that gazette norms and standards are met by 2016.” However, it must be noted that the proposed R9,4 billion in 2015/16, is R1 billion less than what was projected in the 2013 MTBPS. In addition the proposed increased allocation between 2015/16 and 2016/17 is only R700 million, which begs the question, is the planned expenditure over the medium term, enough for the DBE to meet the three year deadline for infrastructure provision, as contained in the norms and standards for school infrastructure?
Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI)
The 2014/15 budget allocation to ASIDI has been reduced. Approximately R2.9 billion was allocated to ASIDI in the main 2014/15 budget, and almost R400 million of this has now been shifted to the Western Cape (Education Infrastructure Grant). As a result the province’s main EIG allocation increased from R485 million to R882 million.
Recent work done by EE has found that provinces not only spend all the funds allocated through the EIG, but many provinces also supplement their school infrastructure spending with money from their equitable share. While it is commendable that funds from ASIDI were shifted to the WC’s EIG, it has to be asked why money has not also been shifted to other provinces, particularly to rural provinces such as Kwa- Zulu Natal where there are large backlogs and the province has shown a capacity to spend by supplementing the EIG with large additional amounts from the equitable share.
After the reduction of the DBE’s budget for ASIDI, 87 % of the original allocation still remains. In the 2013/14 financial year the DBE only managed to spend 70% of their ASIDI budget. If we use DBE’s capital expenditure as a proxy for spending on ASIDI, we find that by August 2014 (5 months into the financial year) the Department had only spent 20% of its original budget. EE questions whether the DBE will be able to spend their reduced budget and provide infrastructure to learners who attend unsafe and substandard schools.
There are thousands of learners in rural provinces who walk long distances to access schooling every day. Recent media reports have highlighted that in some provinces service providers are still owed money by provincial departments for providing transport to learners; and that funding that is made available by provinces is not enough to transport all qualifying learners to schools. EE recommends that there be special focus on the provision of learner transport and that specific funds be allocated to this, to ensure that all learners can access schooling.
For more information contact:
1. Hopolang Selebalo (Parliamentary Liaison Officer) at 074 261 1672.
2. Yoliswa Dwane (Chairperson) at 021 387 0022/3 or 076 387 2338.
3. Nombulelo Nyathela (Spokesperson) at 076 900 1029.