The Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Flood Disaster Relief and Recovery received a briefing from the National Treasury today on the provision of money for disaster relief and recovery. The briefings started yesterday, with reports from the departments of Social Development, Transport, Small Business Development and Public Enterprises. Today was the turn of Finance.

The Minister of Finance, Mr Enoch Godongwana, began by saying that the government made R1 billion available for relief after the April floods had been declared a national disaster. However, confusion arose about how to access the funds. He explained that the manner in which disaster relief funding is disbursed is outlined in legislation controlling how the budget is spent. This is defined in schedule seven of the Division of Revenue Act in terms of provincial and municipal disaster response grants, provincial and municipal emergency housing grants, the disaster allocation process, disaster allocations and reprioritisation, procurement dashboard and spending information.

Nonetheless and despite the confusion, the committee urged the Minister to ensure that the grants reach their intended destination, as they are the custodian of the requirements to ensure that the victims of the disaster were assisted on time. Confusion does not justify a delay in assistance to the people, the committee pointed out.

Mr Godongwana replied that national departments are the transferring departments for immediate relief grant assistance provided to needy communities. These departments include the departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, for local government services; Human Settlements, for the rollout of temporary residential units after the April floods, for example; and Water and Sanitation, for the provision of resources, such as water tanks. Mr Godongwana also mentioned that when a disaster is declared, new processes arise and lessons are learnt.

Nonetheless, the committee emphasised that it is unacceptable that, four months after the declaration of the flood disaster, people are still living in temporary accommodation and children are not going to school. In addition, some municipalities do not have the capacity to follow the process to access grants. The committee called on the National Treasury and the transferring departments to intervene in situations such as these to ensure that people receive the assistance they so urgently need.

The committee also urged National Treasury to ensure that controls are tightened around money appropriated for disaster, so that it is not misappropriated when it reaches municipalities. Municipalities should not be allowed to use money set aside for disaster relief to pay salaries, the committee said.

The committee was unhappy about the lack of information in the Treasury’s report about flood disaster relief to the North West province, despite the devastation the committee saw there with their own eyes. Mr Godongwana noted the omission and promised to provide the committee with a full report on the matter.

Mava Lukani 
12 August 2022