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Democratic Alliance wrong to claim 67% of Cape Town’s budget spent on poor communities

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What do Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, Democratic Alliance national spokesman Phumzile van Damme, member of parliament Kevin Mileham, Cape Town councillor Anda Ntsodo and shadow minister of water and sanitation Nosimo Balindlela have in common?

They have all claimed that the Democratic Alliance-run City of Cape Town municipality spends 67% of its budget in poor communities.

This highly contested factoid has also featured in the party’s local government election manifesto and on its official Facebook page.

Is there data to support the claim, though?

How the city interprets ‘poor’

CoCT 67Africa Check contacted the Democratic Alliance at the beginning of May 2016 to ask for evidence to support the claim - as it was cited in their election manifesto: “In the 2014/15 financial year, the City of Cape Town spent 67% of its budget in poor communities.”

In response, the party sent us a memorandum which provided a “summary of the City of Cape Town’s approach in determining what portion of its budget is targeted towards our poorest residents”.

It stated that the city’s “pro-poor spend” calculation is “sourced from line departments” and based on their “respective understanding of the utilisation of their resources”.

“Poor” is interpreted, the memorandum explains, as “being poor by lack of resources, deprivation of human rights, absence of free basic services and capabilities to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society”.

Data provided for wrong year

Attached to the memorandum was a spreadsheet. However, the spreadsheet was for the 2015/16 financial year - not 2014/15, as was cited in their election manifesto.

It’s unclear how the city compiled the spreadsheet because the 2015/16 financial year was not yet over when they sent it to us on 18 May. (Their financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June.)

We alerted the DA to this and they sent us the city’s breakdown for 2014/15.

Spreadsheet only contains ‘service delivery budget’

“The City of Cape Town spends 67% of its budget on services to and upliftment of poor communities,” the party’s spokesman Van Damme claimed in September last year.

But the city’s breakdown does not support this statement - or the others made by De Lille, Mileham, Ntsodo and Balindlela.

Rather, the spreadsheet provided by the city sets out that 67% of what is described as the “service delivery budget” is invested “in poor areas and informal settlements”.

The “service delivery budget” includes the line departments City Health, Human Settlements, Safety and Security and Social and Early Childhood Development. It also includes parts of the budgets of other departments, such as Community Services, Transport and Utility Services.

The city’s tally of these line department’s spending adds up to an investment of R17.5 billion in 2014/15 in poor areas and informal settlements. (Note: On some occasions, the claim has been made within this context.)

A number of departments are not included in the city’s calculations. These include Compliance and Auxiliary Services, Corporate Services, Energy, Environment and Spatial Planning, Finance, Rates and Other and Tourism Events and Economic Development.

If the city’s figure of investment in poor areas and informal settlements (R17,504,774,569) is calculated as a percentage of the total latest publicly available 2014/15 budget (R35,458,835,000), the portion the city says it invested drops to 49.4%.

Departments’ figures contradict the city

But is the city’s estimate accurate? We attempted to verify a number of the figures listed in the spreadsheet.

  • City Health

According to the city’s spreadsheet, City Health invested 85.2% of its total budget in poor areas and informal settlements.

However, mayoral committee member for health, councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, told Africa Check that “it is not easy to exclusively separate the budget according to poor areas and informal settlements”.

She could only provide a breakdown of what percentage of sub-district budgets was spent in informal areas. This amounted to R196,763,472 in 2014/15 - 21.3% of City Health’s total 2014/15 budget.

  • Social Development and Early Childhood Development

Similarly, mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, councillor Suzette Little, told Africa Check that “approximately 84%” of her department’s total budget was spent in poor areas and informal settlements.

This is higher than the figure of 78.2% provided by the city.

  • Safety and Security

The city said that 54.2% of Safety and Security’s budget was spent in poor areas and informal settlements.

However, at the time of publishing, the department had not been able to confirm this.

“The Safety and Security Directorate is having some trouble doing a breakdown of their budget as per your request, reason being that it’s a service provided across the city and to all residents,” City of Cape Town senior media liaison officer, Janine Willemans, told Africa Check. “It is a very difficult exercise.”

These inconsistencies cast doubt on the city’s figures, especially since the city said their figures were “sourced from line departments”.

Conclusion: DA wrong to claim 67% of Cape Town’s budget spends in poor communities

The Democratic Alliance and many of its senior members claimed that the City of Cape Town spends 67% of its budget in poor communities.

The claim is incorrect based on the evidence provided by the city.

The city’s breakdown of the calculation set out that they spent 67% of what they call the “service delivery budget” in poor communities and informal areas.

When the amount the city says it invests in poor areas and informal settlements it calculated as a percentage of its whole 2014/15 budget it works out to 49.4%. The exact percentage of the City's budget that is spent in poor communities and informal settlements is unknown. It's unlikely that an accurate figure could ever be calculated, especially given that line departments have highlighted how hard it is to isolate this expenditure. 

Edited by Anim van Wyk


Additional Reading

Does the DA create ‘change that moves SA forward’? We weigh up key claims (2016)

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