The government has budgeted R423.7 million for “prestige projects” – which include renovations of parliamentary villages, Union Buildings and other government infrastructure – for the 2020/2021 financial year.
This is according to Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille, who provided a written parliamentary reply to a question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) this week.
Around R203 million is budgeted for “facilities management at the Union Buildings and Presidency offices” in Pretoria, while R104 million is for the parliamentary villages in Cape Town.
Department to ‘monitor, review’ budget
A further R132 million has been budgeted for various projects around the parliamentary complex in Cape Town and the Union Buildings.
The government has also set aside R48 million for the Groote Schuur estate in Cape Town and R15 million for “roads and parking, refurbishment of existing roads” at the Bryntirion presidential estate in Pretoria.
The various projects include electronic security installations, “integrated facilities management” for periods of five years, refurbishments and structural repairs of buildings.
In her reply, de Lille said, “It must be noted that the Department [will] constantly monitor and review budget allocation for each project on a three months basis. The next review will be in June 2020 due to COVID-19.”
Budget amount is ‘irresponsible’ – DA
Reacting to de Lille’s reply, DA MP Tim Brauteseth said prestige projects and state functions have often been criticised for “extravagant and glamourous excess spending.”
He added, “While it may be argued that some of this expenditure is essential maintenance, the DA believes that in a COVID-19 crisis when the health services are faltering under immense pressure and the economy is plummeting, such expenditure is incredibly irresponsible.
“All available, non-essential expenditure must be directed towards caring for the lives and livelihoods of all South Africans, not projects around government installations which are only being used by a greatly reduced percentage of their occupants, especially during the national lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic.
“The DA calls for this expenditure to be urgently revisited and re-prioritised to cater to the real needs of the nation in the midst of the COVID-19 storm.”
In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will reprioritise R130 billion in its budget to help fund the COVID-19 economic and social package.
In its special adjustment budget guidelines to various Departments in May, the National Treasury said, “In order to find resources to fund the response package, departments are required to identify programmes or activities that can be temporarily suspended without negatively impacting the longevity of such programmes.”
It is unclear at this stage whether the Public Works Department has identified projects that can be “temporarily suspended” or not.