By Bodwa Mbingo | 2018-08-11
In a move that will surely shock taxpayers, government has effected huge budget cuts and suspended what can be described as key national capital projects in favour of lidlokolo that would benefit one individual.
The construction of the Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini’s retirement home in the form of a mansion now popularly known as lidlokolo will go ahead without any budget adjustment, down or up, yet some schools will be left without furniture, toilets and desks because of the credit crunch ravaging the country. From suspending the numerous projects, government plans to save over E560 million and part of that amount includes E49 334 000 that was budgeted for the education sector and to be precise for the upgrading of schools and a few colleges.
The health sector will lose over E50 million as that money had been budgeted towards a number of health facilities around the country.
All this is contained in a highly classified government document that lists a total of 81 capital projects including those that will be affected by the budget cuts resulting in their suspension. Other notable projects that have been suspended by government include the construction of the Sidvokodvo Industrial Estate with a budget of E9 million. Notably, the estate when complete is expected to create 84 000 jobs.
Other projects include funding of the ongoing resettlement and compensations under the Lothair-Matsapha railway line, which would have cost E55 million, the purchasing of heavy plant at E30 million and the rehabilitation of Eswatini Television Authority (ETVA), which would have cost E2 million. E1.5 million for the assistance of people living with disabilities has also been suspended.
The suspension of the various capital projects comes in the wake of government this week giving the nation a glimpse of the picture of the public cash flow problems having reached dire straits. This followed a decision that has been taken by the outgoing cabinet to freeze the filling of all vacant posts, promotions and the creation of new posts within government. This was all attributed to government’s current precarious financial position painting a picture that the country is working on a very tight budget.
Cabinet’s decision to freeze all the vacant posts and promotions was announced by Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Public Service, Evart Madlopha through Establishment Circular No. 3 of 2018. The circular was directed to all PSs and heads of department. “Principal Secretaries and heads of departments are hereby informed that cabinet has directed that all vacant posts, including the creation of new posts and promotions across government be frozen.
This state of affairs has been necessitated by the current financial situation in the country and the cash flow problems faced by government. Principal Secretaries and heads of departments are further informed that henceforth, the ministry of public service will not consider any request from ministries or departments seeking approval to fill vacant posts whether through appointment or promotions,” said Madlopha in the circular.
He said all service commissions and other designated appointing authorities are urged to heed the directive and ensure that no appointments and promotions are made against any vacant post.
“Ministries and departments are further encouraged to explore other service delivery methods for the provision of services that require human capital through consultation with the ministry of public service,” he said through the circular. The circular is with effect from August 1.
This was not the first time government suspended filling of vacant positions and promotions owing to the financial state of the country. A couple of years ago this strategy was effected including a 10 per cent pay cut for politicians that sparked a huge debate and sulking. The country has been going through a financial strain for some time now. Government operations were moving at a snail pace given the financial standing with cars and heavy plants grounded because of diesel.
Elderly grants were not only delayed, but were shockingly below what the senior citizens expected.
On the other hand, the construction of the Prime Minister’s retirement home has most often hit a raw nerve among taxpayers, including Members of Parliament (MPs), who recently vacated office after His Majesty the King dissolved parliament during Sibaya on June 20.
Following a heated debate in the House of Assembly where the MPs wanted to reduce money allocated towards the project from E5.5 million to E3 million, the PM on March 13, showed all and that he was not willing to go down without a fight. On the day he, at length, debated why he deserved the retirement home.
He went as far as including the King’s name, which he said had even allocated the piece of land where the house would be constructed.
He said in the location which had been approved by the King, there was no house that was under E10 million. Dlamini said he would, however, not state which location it was for now.
“Angeke kube lidlokolo (the house will not be a shack or substandard),” said Dlamini then.
The PM, who was speaking in a very shaky voice, which got the legislators worried, said he deserved the house because those were the provisions of Finance Circular No.2 of 2013. The bone of contention between the PM and the MPs had been that the latter wanted to reduce the budget allocation of E5.5 million of the house to E3 million.
Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini had said the house was too expensive, particularly since the designs alone were E1.5 million. However, the PM said those were the provisions of Circular No.2, which are deserved for a man in his position. He said during the ninth Parliament, there was Finance Circular No.1 of 2010, which had been created by Cabinet, however, during one of the Sibaya meetings, the nation called for its removal.
“The resolution was that a Royal Commission be put in place by the King which he duly did and they came up with the new conditions of service,” argued the PM.
Dlamini said the new circular stipulated that the PM must be respected and that when he vacated office, he must be constructed a house, be accorded a car, which would be filled up by government and pension.
It then became apparent on March 19, that the Prime Minister would eventually get E3 million from the budget after the parliamentarians eventually passed the budget that was less of E2.5 million of the sought E5.5 million for his retirement home.
The E5.5 million had been allocated for this financial year, but the legislators were adamant that they would be giving the premier E3 million instead.
This is despite the fact that the PM had fought tooth and nail the previous week as he justified why he deserved the home. Chairperson of the PM’s portfolio committee, appointed MP Thuli Dladla, who tried but in vain to convince the legislators that the E5.5 million should be allocated for the construction of the PM’s house.
She asked her colleagues to agree to setting aside the E2.5 million under Head 60 so that it would be used to finish off the house should there be shortages.
Dladla had said according to the drawings already made and the quantity surveyors report, the total amount needed would be E5.5 million, including certain adjustment that may be needed. However, the MPs were adamant that all they were allocating was E3 million, which would total to E4.5 million when including the drawings, which were allocated last financial year.
It is, therefore, apparent that the PM has won again and he will still get his lidlokolo despite the glaring financial strain on the public purse.
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