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The Standing Committee on Appropriations concluded its public hearings on Monday on the 2017 Division of Revenue Bill.

Various submissions were made by stakeholders from government to civil society. Briefing the Committee, Ms Phindile Ntombela from Equal Education (EE) said that while the 2017/18 budget should be lauded for taking some steps towards meeting pressing needs in the education sector, it nonetheless fails to comprehensively address in a pro-poor manner a key failure in funding education and other social services across provinces.

In its submission, EE said the scholar transport crisis continues year after year, particularly in rural areas. In 2015, EE made a presentation and recommendations to the Appropriations Committee that included a detailed submission on scholar transport. This time around, EE highlighted key issues impacting on effective funding and planning for scholar transport that are still present.

These included the ineffective coordination between the Department of Transport and Department of Basic Education, inaccurate and inconsistent data on the number of learners in need of scholar transport and consistent under-funding and under-budgeting for scholar transport in provinces, particularly in rural provinces.

In its recommendations, EE said in the exercise of revising the equitable share formula, National Treasury should consider the true cost of providing an adequate rural education, so as to ensure that those in need receive the most. With regards to the ongoing scholar transport crisis, EE recommended that the Standing Committee on Appropriations reiterate its previous recommendation that a conditional grant should be properly considered for scholar transport.

Responding to the submission by EE, National Treasury said it does not know which department is responsible for it and that this needs to be resolved to sort the matter out. 

The submission by Mr Russell Rensburg from the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) focused on aspects of the budget that relate to the health of rural communities. Mr Rensburg said health expenditure has grown in real terms by about 1.3 per cent between 2012/13 and 2018/19. In its submission, RHAP also stated that there is continued pressure on health budgets due to high drug prices and cost of employment increases. RHAP also highlighted the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, which it said would have massive downstream costs to the health systems unless these are planned for.

Yoliswa Landu
14 March 2017