Stakeholder inputs received by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations are calling for increased oversight of municipal spending.

The stakeholders, who included the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the National Youth Development Agency and the Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA, briefed the Committee as part of its 2018 national budget dialogue on the 2018 Appropriations Bill.

Increased focus on municipal councillors

In its presentation, Abahlali baseMjondolo said that monitoring and evaluation should focus on the activities of municipal councillors who interact with local communities. It also petitioned for national and local budgets to focus on land provision, service delivery and disaster management.

It further maintained more investment was needed in human capacity building and public participation, not just for compliance, but genuine engagement.

Informal settlements to be prioritised

The SJC said that land tenure and the upgrading of informal settlements should be prioritised. The committee heard that citizens wait years to receive houses and while they wait for these houses to be built they should not live in undignified surroundings.

The SJC therefore recommended that the budget prioritise the upgrading informal settlements though the Urban Settlements Development Grant, rather than the Human Settlement Development Grant.

Poverty and unemployment

Other inputs received during the dialogue argued that poverty and unemployment remain among the key issues that should be addressed in the budget, since more than 30.4 million people continue to live in poverty.

The Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office, Professor Mohammed Jahed, explained public participation in the budget cycle process. However, stakeholders maintained that the process is too bureaucratic and should be simplified to accommodate broader communities.

Wasteful expenditure

There was a consensus that citizens are not always comfortable participating in complex government processes, and that these should be simplified to enhance participation.

Stakeholders said that more public participation is required, as the budget should reflect the will of the people. Wasteful expenditure and issues around accountability were mentioned as pivotal, along with the implementation of efficiency standards in government.