NEWS

MEC Mamabolo present adjusted 2023/24 Budget for Gauteng

SEVERAL Gauteng provincial departments have shaved off millions in their budgets to fund premier Panyaza Lesufi’s bold plan to use technology to fight crime, which has been identified as an apex priority.

Finance MEC Jacob Mamabolo on Thursday allocated R2.7bn to the department, which had received R1.3bn in the previous financial year.

Of this, R1.4bn will go towards 6,000 crime prevention wardens that were announced by Lesufi during his state of the province address in February.

While community safety’s budget has increased by a staggering 93% for the 2023/2024 financial year, the departments of health, roads and transport and human settlements have seen cuts of  2%, 1% and 3%, respectively.

The department of health’s budget is R60.09bn, the second highest allocation, roads and transport has been allocated R8.47bn with human settlements given R6.42bn.

The budget in Lesufi’s office decreased from R881.6m to R754.5m.

Mamabolo said money was being directed to departments that spend their budget.

“We’re not throwing money at problems. We’re saying to departments, approach us if your projects are ready. Government makes provisions for adjustments of budgets. The money is not taken away but we don’t want to increase the money of departments when they don’t spend.

“The principle we’re making here, let’s see value for money, compliance, let’s see procurement plans and let’s see your business plan,” Mamabolo said.

Provincial treasury head of department Ncumisa Mnyani said R50m would go towards purchasing 144 drones and R31.4m would go towards the procurement of 1,560 CCTV cameras.

“We also know there are already cameras in urban areas so we’re looking at installing the cameras in townships, informal settlements and hostels,” Mnyani said.

National chairperson of Security Association SA, Louis Mkhethoni, said the province had a massive crime problem and needed all the technology it could get to fight it.

But Lesufi would need to outline the plan to determine whether the R2.7bn will be enough. 

“Helicopters and drones are expensive, and they have running and maintenance costs. A helicopter’s running costs on fuel alone is quite expensive and it is not just a helicopter, it would be a tactical response helicopter that needs to be equipped with communication apparatus to give feedback to the command centre,” he said. 

“You don’t just have technology, you have manpower as well that needs to go into safeguarding, not only households.  

“Security is a moving target. You cannot just limit it to R2.7bn. Perhaps for the security infrastructure, maybe, but this would depend on how the scope is expanded and which areas are targeted,” Mkhethoni said.

He said the very equipment that would be deployed would also need to be safe-guarded from vandalism and theft. 

“Criminals are strategising to counter any efforts to fight them. I mean what would be the point of having a drone if it is going to get shot down. 

“You are not just looking at street cameras. You are looking at command centres, which would have all sorts of equipment, you are looking at fibre and all the cables… We don’t even know if that R2.7bn includes rail and transport infrastructure,”  Mkhethoni said.

He said the operation imagined by Lesufi would require integrated systems that would see command centres with agents monitoring hotspots, sending messages to law enforcement and giving exact locations of suspects. 

“Once you have that integrated solution, there is no place for criminals to hide. You need things like face recognition with specialised cameras that allow you to zoom into the face immediately, then you run the footage on analytics and identify who the person is. 

“All of that costs a lot of money. So, we are yet to hear how the premier hopes to roll this out and he can hopefully call us as stakeholders to give input.” 

Tabling the R158bn provincial budget, Mamabolo said fighting crime was the province’s apex priority, adding that the Treasury had “aggressively” moved to confront this challenge with the urgency it deserved.

“The R4bn additional allocation over the medium-term expenditure framework [over three years] is for the training and absorption of the 6,000 crime prevention wardens undergoing training that is scheduled to conclude at the end of April 2023.

“In addition to capacitating these crime prevention wardens with the necessary tools of trade, the resource allocation will also enable the acquisition of technological solutions to fight crime such as drones and the leasing of helicopters to enhance visibility of crime prevention efforts. Also included in this allocation is funding to fleet services to further capacitate traffic police to undertake their duties,” Mamabolo said.

Image (With a pen in hand. MEC finance Jacob Mamabolo presented his maiden provincial budget on Thursday).

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