Eastern Cape underspends on early childhood development

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By the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)

The two main departments responsible for crucial Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes in the Eastern Cape – the Department of Education and the Department of Social Development – have both been negatively affected by underspent budgets.

On 22 November, the Eastern Cape MEC for Finance, Sakhumzi Somyo, tabled the 2018 Adjusted Estimates of the Provincial Revenue and Expenditure, the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and the 2018 Adjusted Appropriation Bill.

He announced that the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s (ECDoE) Grade R in Public Schools sub-programme underspent by R72.8-million in the 2017/18 financial year. It is especially concerning that a further R62-million have been shifted from the Grade R programme in the current adjusted budget announced by the MEC. This has led to the reduction of the ECDoE’s main ECD budget from R785.5-million to an adjusted budget of R723.5-million.

This reduction in spending on the Grade R in Public Schools sub-programme is not good given the importance of providing resources to these schools. Shifting money from underspending or underperforming programmes to other programmes is not an ideal solution. Rather, support should be provided by the provincial treasury to improve spending.

Furthermore, whilst there was a nominal increase of the ECDoE overall budget allocation, by 0.4%, from R34.8 billion of the main budget to the adjusted budget of R34.9 billion, when inflation is taken into account, this decreased by 3% to R33.8 billion.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development (ECDSD) underspent its ECD budget by R29.1-million in the 2017/18 year. The ECDSD and Provincial Treasury must work together to ensure that the budget underspending from the 2017/18 year is improved on.

While the ECDSD was allocated a welcome additional allocation of R6.3-million in an adjusted ECD budget of R82.4 million, it must be pointed out that many more children need to be provided with this service in the province.

Basic services in schools

PSAM is also concerned about the failure of the ECDoE to meet its targets. For example, the 2018/19 Adjusted Estimates of Provincial Revenue and Expenditure, reported the following poor mid-year performance delivering basic services to schools.

Table 1: Provision of Basic Services to Schools, Targets vs Performance 2018/19

  2018/19
Target Performance
Provision of water supply to schools 169 17
Electricity supply 32 13
Sanitation facilities 169 14
Classrooms built 221 143

 

Table 1 above shows that ECDoE is not only underperforming on the provision of sanitation to school. Underperformance can also be noted in the provision of water where only 17 schools were provided with water from the target of 169 in the mid-year performance of 2018/19. The poor performance by the ECDoE means that the rights of learners to access equitable basic education is not being realised.

There needs to be a greater effort by the national Department of Basic Education to provide support to the ECDoE to improve performance in the 2019/20 financial year.

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