Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

Parlementarians are flexing their muscles and vowing to turn Finance Minister Trevor Manuel's recently announced mini-budget upside down.

Yesterday MP's said they would overhaul next year's Budget after reports that Manuel had failed to allocate sufficient funds to address backlogs in the education system.

MPs heard from Education Department director-general Duncan Hindle yesterday that his department had asked for an additional R7billion to extend the school feeding programme to secondary schools but only received R4billion from the Treasury in last week's medium-term Budget.

The R7billion would also have allowed the department to increase the amount allocated to each child from R1,50 a day to R2 a day.

The move to scupper Manuel's recently announced midterm Budget follows the recent passing on the Money Bills that allow Parliamentarians to make changes to the Budget after he had tabled it.

After the passing of the bills Manuel told Business Day he was concerned about Parliament's capacity to make changes to the "delicate balancing of competing priorities and macroeconomic assumptions".

He warned that parliamentarians should not be tempted to make "tweaks" to the Budget that would undermine the balance.

Acting joint Budget Committee chairman Joan Fubbs said yesterday: "We are not going to tweak any Budget. We are going to transform it. Anyone who thinks we are going to be tweaking must have gone to a manicurist."

She said Parliament would develop the Budget based on the current situation where there were major backlogs.

Fubbs slammed Manuel's medium-term Budget statement in which he allocated an extra R19,6 billion to education, bringing the total to R123,4 billion.

"Is this a developmental framework Budget? The answer is no," she said.

Education Department deputy director-general Firoz Patel told the committee that R233 billion was needed just to deal with backlogs in school infrastructure.

Committee co-chair Elliot Sogoni said the under-funding of education put ANC MPs in a quandary.

"Can we tell people that there is nothing that can be done, now vote for us?" he asked.