SA Connect funding grossly inadequate: DA

Government’s R1.6bn budget for its municipal broadband project SA Connect is inadequate, says opposition political party the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday in the National Budget Speech said that “R1.6bn is allocated to the SA Connect broadband programme to support access in remote areas and of schools, healthcare facilities and government institutions”.

This amount is planned to be allocated over the MTEF (Medium Term Expenditure Framework) period.

In the 2015 Budget Speech, ex-Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said that “R1.1bn is allocated for broadband connectivity in government institutions and schools”.

And in President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address last month, he said that the first phase of SA Connect would “connect more than 5 000 government facilities in eight district municipalities over a three-year period”.

But DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Marian Shinn, said in an emailed statement that R1.6bn may not be enough for this purpose.

“R1.6 billion over the MTEF (2016/2019) period is little over R500 million a year,” said Shinn.

“While the entire allocation is an extra R500 million over last year’s original allocation, it is inadequate to the task to meet the objectives set out for the period of 5 803 government sites in eight municipalities by March 2019,” said Shinn.

“While the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) asked for R1.4 billion for SA Connect in the MTEF from 2015/2018, it was only allocated R739m  by National Treasury.

“I assume the first R200 million that was earmarked for fiscal 2015/16 has been unspent and rolled over into this new MTEF,” said Shinn.

Mark Walker – who is the associate vice-president for the International Data Corporation (IDC) in sub-Saharan Africa – also questioned the planned budget for SA Connect.

“The question that arises is the quantum of money that has been put aside to roll out broadband is very small,” Walker told Fin24.

“Is government waiting for the private sector to take up these projects?” Walker asked.

Fin24

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SA Connect funding grossly inadequate: DA