Parliament� Under-expenditure of the early childhood development (ECD) grant in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces was highlighted by both the National Treasury and the Department of Social Development (DSD) today.

The Select Committee on Appropriations was told that the Eastern Cape had spent a mere 48.6% of its allocated budget of R56.365 million, while the North West province spent only 62.1% of its allocated budget of R32.686 million during the 4th quarter of the 2017/18 financial year.

The committee heard that the number of children to benefit from the ECD subsidy in the Eastern Cape was set at 11 047, but the actual beneficiaries were 8 420 children. While ECD subsidies should be provided for 264 days, the Eastern Cape only provided services for 209 days and the North West province for 248 days, the committee was told. DSD plans on addressing this by adding the 264 days as a condition of the grants framework.

In terms of upgrading ECD centres, the committee heard that the Eastern Cape had not done any maintenance or upgrades during the 4th quarter, while the North West Province had done a mere 10 of the 48 upgrades that it set out to do.

DSD indicated that one of the biggest challenges of maintaining ECD centres was based on the R100 000 limit towards infrastructure projects, which cannot accommodate the high quotations received from contractors. A number of provinces also blamed the failure in maintenance on the delays in tendering processes, but the committee said that Supply Chain Management (SCM) policy only requires infrastructure projects to go out on tender for projects costing more than R200 000. While DSD plans on increasing the limit on infrastructure projects to R180 000, the committee viewed these as feeble excuses of not delivering.

The committee’s Acting Chairperson, Mr Charel de Beer, said: The ECD grant aims to improve the access of ECD to learners from poor backgrounds, and ensure that ECD centres have adequate infrastructure. Although the grant was only released in the 2017/18 financial year, provinces are encouraged to realise the importance of this grant and the effect of this grant on learners in Grade 1 and beyond.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa