Tone but not words

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The tone,but not the words of an answer to a Parliamentary question leaves one in no doubt the defence department is being strangled.

While prolifigate departments are bailed out (Public Works, Education as well as provinces such as Limpopo and the Eastern Cape; defence, with a record of demonstrated delivery is left out cold. This cannot be right.

In her anwer Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu said the military’s R38.4 billion budget, allocated by Treasury in February was hopelessly inadequate. “I described the R38.4 billion allocation [to the South African National Defence Force] as hopelessly inadequate since it was projected to grow to R43.9 billion in 2013/14,” Sisulu said in a written reply to a parliamentary question posed by MA Nhanha of Cope.
“I still maintain that view and we approached the National Treasury for additional funding. The National Treasury responded by allocating limited additional funds for border safeguarding,” Sisulu stated. For 2012/13, Sisulu requested an additional R520 million for border safeguarding and R755 million for maritime security – tasks allocated by a Cabinet that includes Treasury boss finance minister Pravin Gordhan. But it only received R200 million for border safeguarding and nothing at all for maritime security.

Surely, if tasks are allocated, Treasury must fund reasonable expenditure. Nothing for piracy smacks of insult. The amount given for border security is not much better. Sisulu cannot say Treasury is killing her department, it would not be collegial; but, she sure can imply it – and has. It’s time Treasury needs to act like collueagues too.

For next year, Sisulu asked for R546 million for border safeguarding and was allocated R250 million. Similarly, for 2014/15 Sisulu’s department was allocated R299 million out of R573 million requested for this task. However, her requests for additional maritime security funding (R793 million requested for 2013/14 and R832 million for 2014/15) resulted in zero allocations.
“We will continue to engage the National Treasury during the adjustments budget process for 2012/13 and also during 2013/14 budget process,” Sisulu stated. “Furthermore, the Department is also reassessing its internal programme allocations based on government priorities and also to ensure effective and efficient economic utilisation of available resources.”

Sisulu has previously argued for a budget equivalent to 2% of GDP, which would roughly amount to an increase in her budget to R50 billion.