Daily Dispatch

Siyabulela Fobosi Siyabulela Fobosi is Education Researcher at Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).

The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) acknowledges the commitment by the minister of finance Tito Mboweni to addressing the crisis of sanitation in schools across the country.

In his 2019 Budget Speech delivered on February 20, the Minister noted that an additional R2.8-billion will be allocated to the School Infrastructure Backlogs Grant (SIBG) to replace pit latrines. The SIBG funds the nationally-administered Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi). R2-billion is allocated for school infrastructure targets to replace 59 inappropriate and unsafe schools with newly built schools, providing water to 227 schools and providing sanitation to 717 at schools.

While these encouraging targets have been set by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), it is unlikely that they will be achieved given the history of poor performance by the DBE and its contracted service providers. For example, it was reported in the first quarter of the 201819 financial year that the Department provided water to 64 schools against a target of 325, mainly because of delays in the implementation of projects. It is therefore unlikely that the DBE will meet the target of providing water to 227 schools in 2019-20 if project implementation delays continue.

Also, of the target of providing sanitation to 285 schools in 2018-19, only 64 schools were in fact provided with sanitation. The reason for this poor performance is attributed to delayed implementation by project contractors.

While the allocation to the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) for the Eastern Cape will increase by about 6% in nominal terms, from R1.494-billion in 2018-19 to R1.585-billion in 2019-20, once the effects of inflation are taken into account the EIG for the Eastern Cape experiences a decline of 2%.

The PSAM calls on the National Treasury to ensure that there is sufficient EIG funding for this historically disadvantaged province, especially, given the lack of proper sanitation in a significant number of schools across the Eastern Cape. For example, in January 2018 the DBE reported that out of the 5,400 schools in the Eastern Cape, 1,945 schools still used pit latrines and about 154 schools had no electricity.

While the 2019 Budget outlines increasing access to quality early childhood development (ECD) by improving and maintaining infrastructure, and subsidising centres that offer ECD services to children from poor households, it is not clear how the underspending and poor performance challenges will be addressed.

In addition, while the 201920 ECD grant increases to R518million in nominal terms from the R490-million allocated in 2018-19, once inflation is taken into account the real amount of funds available in 2019-20 is less than last year, totalling R471million, in real terms. The Northern Cape experienced the highest (23%) decrease in its budget for the ECD grant, down from R18.4-million in 2018-19 to R14.1-million in 2019-20. The National Treasury should provide an explanation for this decrease.

The ECD grant allocation to the Eastern Cape only increased by 8.4% in nominal terms, from R78.7-million in 2018-19 to R85.3-million in 2019-20. While the allocation to the Eastern Cape over the medium- term increases by 4%, in nominal terms, it will only increase by 3.3% in real terms.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned in the 2019 State of the Nation Address (Sona) that there will be a roll-out of compulsory two year access to ECD services for all children, it is concerning that there were no budgetary allocations for this in the tabled 2019 Budget. It is also concerning that there appear to be no specific budget allocations for sanitary towels to be made available at schools across the country, as outlined by the President in the 2019 Sona.

The most recent reports available from the Department of Social Development (DSD) indicate that the maintenance budget of the ECD grant was underutilised in the previous year. For example, through the maintenance budget, the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development (ECDSD) targeted 96 ECD centres to upgrade, however none in fact benefited. In contrast to this, the Free State managed to upgrade all 79 targeted ECD centres.

Similar to the Free State, Gauteng upgraded all 16 ECD centres that were targeted. Also, five provinces, namely KwaZulu-Natal (117), Limpopo (96), Mpumalanga (62), Northern Cape (65), and Western Cape (13) upgraded all ECD centres that were targeted. North West only managed to upgrade 10 of the 46 ECD centres that were targeted. It appears that only Eastern Cape and North West failed to meet their set targets, due to late appointments in the recruitment process. A key question is therefore whether these challenges will be addressed in the 2019-20 financial year. It is also critical to understand the conditions that children live in to provide needs-based services.

In conclusion, the PSAM urges provincial education departments to ensure better use of their budgets in 2019-20. Legislatures and school governing bodies are encouraged to exercise improved levels of oversight over school funding and to use detailed education budget information made available on www.vulekamali.gov.za to support their responsibilities.