Budget goof strands pupils

The Eastern Cape Transport Department has failed to secure available extra funding to bus more than 29 000 Eastern Cape pupils when schools reopen on Monday.

GRUELLING JOURNEY: Tsholomnqa High School pupils from Kidd’s Beach and other surrounding areas walking to school due to the lack in scholar transport Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA/FILE

These thousands of pupils had not been budgeted for, although they qualified for state-funded transport to schools when the financial year began in April this year.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed in a parliamentary response on May 9 that six provinces, including the Eastern Cape, had a budget shortfall of R639.9-million for pupil transport.

Of this, R189-million would have been used to transport 29314 deserving Eastern Cape pupils until the end of March next year.

Other provinces which needed the top-up are Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.

In a written reply to a question from the Democratic Alliance’s shadow education minister Sonia von Boshoff, Motshekga said: “Information received from the said provinces indicates that the said provinces have not as yet requested funding from national Treasury to cover the shortfall in their 2017-18 scholar transport budget.”

Provincial transport department spokeswoman Khuselwa Rantjie said yesterday they had “submitted an application for additional funding to the provincial treasury,” to make up for the shortfall.

Asked why no submissions had been made to National Treasury, provincial treasury spokeswoman Nosisa Sogayise said: “All funding requests get discussed in the budget process. All the cost pressures and competing priorities are set at a national platform through the sector departments that culminate in 10 by 10 discussions through various relevant structures.

“The level of funding to the cost pressures and priorities is determined by economic and fiscal outlook. The item [scholar transport] has been funded through provincial equitable share to the level determined by the economic and fiscal outlook.”

Motshekga confirmed in her written response that “discussions are under way within provincial departments to seek mechanisms to address the shortages from their own respective provincial budgets”.

Records show that at least 106551 pupils in the province qualify for state transport, but the Dispatch reported earlier this year that the King William’s Town-based transport department could only cater for 77237 pupils this year.

The minister’s response confirms that funds were available to pay for all pupils who deserved scholar transport in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Free State. Eastern Cape education portfolio committee chairman Fundile Gade said they were awaiting feedback from officials on the committee’s request to provincial treasury to apply for extra funding from national treasury.

Reacting to the minister’s reply, EC DA transport shadow MEC Marshall von Buchenroder said: “We could have been in the same league as the Western Cape, Gauteng and Free State, where 100% of beneficiaries get scholar transport.”

Provincial treasury spokeswoman Nosisa Sogayise had not responded to questions by the time of writing. — zineg@dispatch.co.za/ arethal@dispatch.co.za

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