Comms dept budget shrinks

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 21 Feb 2024
Mondli Gungubele, minister in the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.
Mondli Gungubele, minister in the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Budget 2024: The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) will have to go about its business more frugally, as it faces a budget reduction of R727.9 million, over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF).

This, after the reduced budget amount was approved by Cabinet, according to National Treasury’s Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) document, handed out to coincide with the 2024 budget speech.

Over the MTEF period, Cabinet approved reductions for the DCDT in the range of R415 million in 2024/25, R153.7 million in 2025/26 and R159.2 million in 2026/27 – mainly on transfers and subsidies, capital assets, and goods and services.

To cushion itself against the budget reduction, the ENE document says the DCDT plans to absorb this by “reducing travel and hosting more meetings online, conducting more work in-house rather than using consultants, and reducing the number of non-core personnel, which will see a decrease in its number of personnel from 357 in 2024/25 to 346 in 2026/27.

“An estimated 53% (R4.9 billion) of the department’s budget over the MTEF period is allocated to transfers to entities for their operations and for project-specific funding.

“Of this amount, R1.7 billion is allocated to the South African Post Office for its universal service obligations to provide postal services in underserviced areas; R1.5 billion is allocated to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa for regulating the ICT and postal sectors, and R672.4 million is allocated to the South African Broadcasting Corporation for various activities.”

According to the ENE, the department is also in the process of finalising its revised organisational structure and is filling critical positions.

“As a result, expenditure on compensation of employees is set to increase at an average annual rate of 4.4%, from R302 million in 2023/24 to R344.2 million in 2026/27. Projected spending on goods and services amounts to R2.9 billion over the MTEF period, representing 34.8% of the total budget,” reads the National Treasury document.

This is mostly for computer services for the implementation of the South Africa Connect project, and, to a lesser extent, travel and subsistence, consultants and operating leases for office accommodation.

The DCDT is mandated to enable South Africa’s digital transformation in an effort to achieve digital inclusion and economic growth by creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment.

It will continue to provide a supporting and enabling legislative environment through the development of relevant policies, strategies and legislation, says the ENE.

“Over the MTEF period, this will include submitting the Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services and Online Safety Bill to the minister for approval, and monitoring the implementation of the national data and cloud policy. As a result, expenditure in the ICT Policy Development and Research programme is set to amount to R134 million over the medium-term.”