The Democratic Alliance (DA) has begun the process, in terms of Section 77(3) of the Constitution, to amend the national budget in order fund the R2,7-billion shortfall in higher education funding.
In President Zuma’s statement to the nation on Friday he said that there would be no fee increases in universities for 2016. While this announcement will be a relief for all students, the president made no mention of where the resulting shortfall in university income, estimated to be in the region of R2,7-billion, would come from. In addition, reports today suggest that the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, does not know where he will find the money to fund the shortfall.
Belinda Bozzoli, shadow minister of higher education, says the DA has begun the process of amending the budget through Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations.
Member of Parliament Malcolm Figg addressed a letter to Committee Chair Paul Mashatile in Friday’s sitting of the Appropriations Committee, indicting that the DA intends to amend the budget, and requests the committee to take the following steps:
* To solicit the assistance of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in amending the relevant legislation, including the exact amount required to fund the shortfall, and the most appropriate areas in which this revenue can be found;
* For the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training to be invited to brief the Committee on the scope and extent of the funding crisis in higher education, as well as its Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR); and
* For the Parliamentary Legal Adviser to provide advice on the process that must be followed as to avoid procedural error.
“There is no doubt that the funding will not be found in the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) University budget,” says Bozzoli. “That budget is extremely tight already, with little or no surplus or identified wasteful expenditure that could be transferred.”
The DA has made several concrete proposals as to where the funds can be found, which amounts to R3,8-billion, including:
* R2-billion from the sale of government’s stake in Vodacom, currently allocated to the BRICS bank;
* R720-million allocated to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to offset the impact of the depreciation of the rand on foreign missions;
* An additional R69,7-million allocated to VIP Protection Services in the MTBPS;
* R67-million allocated immediately for the preparatory work on the planned nuclear build, which the DA maintains should be abandoned; and
* R1-billion from the skills levy surplus.