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The Select Committee on Appropriations (SeCOA) welcomed the improved spending of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Grant by the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Social Development but cautioned officials on the failure to improve the department’s annual targets.

The department received an overall allocation of R78.7 million which is divided as follows: R72.7 million allocated towards subsiding ECD centres; R3.3 million allocated towards the maintenance of ECD centres; and R2.6 million allocated towards the administration of ECD centres.

Expenditure performance for the 2018/19 financial year revealed that the Eastern Cape had, during the second quarter, spent a mere 23% of the allocated ECD grant budget, while the department had seen an improved spending of 66%, attributed to the intervention and guidance of the national Department of Social Development by the end of December 2018. This was not reflected in its annual targets.

In the second quarter, 23% of the subsidy allocation was spent, reaching 20 429 children, while in the third quarter 66% of the subsidy was spent on the same number of children, that is, 20 429. In terms of the maintenance, the department had increased its spending from 0% in the second quarter to 30% on two ECD centres during the third quarter, missing its annual targets by 24%.

Intervention from the national Department of Social Development and National Treasury has seen the department put in place various mechanisms of improving its annual targets and extending its reach during the fourth quarter of 2018/19. These included a reduction of the maintenance grant for 2018/19, to “enable the province to address its challenges and fine-tune its processes”; and the establishment of a task team which continues to monitor the implementation of a project plan that was developed.

Mechanisms to improve on annual targets as developed by the provincial Department of Social Development include a revision of the department’s operational strategy. This entailed a revision of the department’s procurement strategy, which seeks to follow the quotation route as opposed to a tender process which will result in a quicker turnaround time to award, and improve its technical capacity and engagements with the Provincial Treasury and Public Works to “establish a database of pre-qualified contractors in each district to enable a more efficient process”.

The committee thus acknowledged the efforts of the provincial department to improve the spending of the ECD grant and the mechanisms developed to improve their annual targets of reaching as many children as possible.

By Felicia Lombard
14 February 2019