By: Tebogo Mokwena
The Portfolio Committee of Small Business Development has ordered the Department of Small Business Development and Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to make haste in concluding the National Small Enterprise Amendment Bill. The committee says this will solve many of the issues that are plaguing the department and its entities, the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA).
The committee met on Wednesday to discuss and adopt the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) for the department. It said the department had to implement the recommendations in the report by March of next year. The document made a number of key recommendations following a series of meetings between the committee, the department, and the agencies. These meetings ranged from discussing findings made by the Auditor-General for the entities for the 2021/22 financial year to talks on the Bill.
The Bill, which was tabled before Parliament in 2020, is yet to be concluded. Committee members asserted that a number of the department’s key performance targets and budget centred on the successful conclusion of the Bill. “These (targets) include the merger (of SEFA and SEDA), creating statutory entities like the Small Enterprise Ombuds Office, defining a small enterprise, and the creation of the Small Business Advisory Council,” committee member Sibusiso Gumede said.
“The department inferred that the Bill may be ready for referral to Parliament by December 2023, (and) the committee is of the opinion and recommendation that in light of various challenges besetting small enterprises, and hundreds of complaints from the sector before the committee, a segmented approach to the review of the Bill should be considered.” Gumede also stated that the SMME and Co-Operatives Funding Policy must be accelerated and concluded before 31 March 2023.
“It will not be in the interest of good governance if the committee accepts or considers the Annual Performance Plan (for the 2023/24 financial year) with this target still incomplete or pending approval by the Cabinet.” The committee also slammed the department’s perceived bias in distributing funds across provinces. “The committee also noted that the tenacious skewness in the distribution of funds and resources as observed in all annual reports in favour of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape at the exclusion of other struggling regions and provinces like the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and the North West (and this) requires urgent intervention,” it said.
“Historical inequities exist between provinces as well as between districts within each province. “Remedial measures could include, amongst others, equitable allocation of resources per province and districts must be reported on quarterly and annual reports.”