THE national government’s intervention in Limpopo has to continue, despite the province being on track to post a budget surplus, as the capacity of its treasury and other departments had to be strengthened, the Treasury said on Tuesday.
This news is unlikely to be welcomed by premier Cassel Mathale and his MECs, whose powers were taken over by national administrators last December.
Limpopo health MEC Norman Mabasa on Tuesday expressed frustration over the lack of communication from the administrators, the absence of synergy in planning and decision-making and the lack of clarity on the powers MECs still had.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan dismissed rumblings of discontent in the province, telling Parliament’s standing committee on finance on Tuesday that "there is some propaganda" to undermine the intervention.
"Clearly people who would have been benefiting from inappropriate access to public funds are going to squeal because those funds are no longer circulating," he said.
Criminal charges had been laid with the police, or would be laid, in about 30 cases and there would be another 30 cases of disciplinary action against officials.
Mr Gordhan said the national government’s intervention in Limpopo’s treasury and its health, education, public works and roads and transport departments had worked well from a financial point of view. But it was too early "to pull back" as the situation in the province was not sustainable.
The interministerial task team on Limpopo recently submitted a report to President Jacob Zuma. It summarised the progress and did not make far-reaching recommendations on further action by the national government.
There had been varied levels of success in Limpopo’s departments, Mr Gordhan said.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi reported that Limpopo’s health department was doing "extremely well" and had brought service delivery under control.
Some challenges in the Limpopo education department — which is embroiled in a scandal over its failure to deliver textbooks — still had to be addressed.
Transport Minister Ben Martins had just appointed a new administrator for Limpopo and a public works team was still busy.
The Treasury’s head of intergovernmental relations, Kenneth Brown, said on Tuesday that the intervention had moved out of the stabilisation phase and into the recovery phase — which could take some time to complete.
The national government’s withdrawal from Limpopo would require a decision by the Cabinet and would depend on the progress made by each of the five departments under national control.
The Cabinet decided to intervene in Limpopo when it sought approval last year for a bank overdraft of about R1bn to pay salaries and wages.
The province would have ended the fiscal year with a R2bn deficit if it had been allowed to continue spending at the same rate. The Treasury helped to craft a 2012-13 budget on the basis of a R700m surplus, which Limpopo was on track to achieve.
Mr Brown said that by end-September, Limpopo had R2.5bn cash in the bank, which would be rolled over for the rest of the year.
By achieving efficiencies, it would post a budget surplus at the end of the fiscal year without having had to cut back on spending and without additional cash injections from the national government.
"The first phase of the intervention was to stabilise the finances on an emergency basis. We are now entering the second phase, which is a recovery phase," Mr Brown said.
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