/ 17 April 2008

Govt depts still underspend, says new report

Government departments have generally continued to underspend on their budgets since 2004, the Public Service Commission (PSC) said on Thursday.

This follows the release of the annual State of the Public Service Report 2008, which indicates that while there is an overall decrease in underspending, there is still a lack of planning when it comes to expenditure and reporting on it.

This has even led to overspending in some cases.

”There remain concerns that funds are not always spent in an efficient and effective way,” PSC chairperson Stan Sangweni said at the release of the report.

The annual report focuses on a mid-term review of the public service under the current government between 2004 and 2007. It tries to strike a balance between good practices and problem areas.

”Perhaps the area where the public service has contributed the most to tangibly improving the quality of lives of citizens is through its development orientation.

”Improvement in educational access, better infrastructure services and the school nutritional programme have helped to reduce poverty. More importantly, the social assistance programme has been expanded, with 25% of the population in receipt of some sort of grant,” Sangweni said.

However, the report also highlights reoccurring problems such as a lack of financial disclosure by senior government officials and a lack of consultation, as well as recurring qualified audit reports.

Housing task team

Meanwhile, a national government team is to be deployed to help the embattled Eastern Cape housing department fulfil its mandate, government communications head Themba Maseko said on Thursday.

Briefing the media following the Cabinet’s Wednesday meeting, he said the Cabinet had decided to deploy the team to assist after receiving a report indicating that the department was failing to fulfil its mandate to deliver houses to the people of the province.

”The delivery of houses in the province has declined from 37 000 units per annum in 2004/05 to 11 750 in the 2007/08 financial year,” he said.

The team will be deployed in terms of the Housing Act to ensure that housing delivery is accelerated in the province.

Should the situation not improve within 12 months, consideration will be given to invoking a section of the Constitution providing for the national housing minister to take over the administration of the provincial housing department, Maseko said. — Sapa