By: Anna Majavu
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development says it is pleased with the performance of the government’s Small Business portfolio this year, even though it also has a long list of problems that need to be fixed. The government’s Small Business portfolio is made up of the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa), and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda).
In a committee meeting, a draft report “applauded” the DSBD for achieving another consecutive clean audit opinion and managing to spend 99.3% of its budget. However, the committee was unhappy that the department only met 14 of its 25 performance targets, with its performance dropping from 60% to 56% – a steep drop from the 85% of targets it met in 2020/21.
It also said there had been no progress on the promised red tape reduction for small businesses. The Small Business portfolio had also failed to give a proper breakdown of all the different types of enterprises it had funded and advised, even though the committee had instructed it to do so in April 2022. Instead, it had continued to provide the committee with a ballpark figure that did not specify how many SMMEs, co-operatives, informal traders, and social enterprises were funded, or where they were located.
This “conceals the narrow and asymmetric distribution of resources… [and] does not provide a clear picture of how resources are distributed equally among regions,” reads the committee’s report. It also questioned why the department had targeted 200 co-operatives for support, and then claimed it supported 321 but did not provide details for the committee to verify. The committee gave the department until 30 November 2023 to furnish a proper list of all co-ops funded.
It also instructed the department to finalise the SMME and Co-operatives Funding Policy that it released six months ago. It said the department must also tell Parliament when it would begin lifestyle audits on its executives. On the forensic investigations conducted by Sefa after dozens of “ghost SMME beneficiaries” were found to have been paid funds, the committee said the board must disclose the audit results to Parliament before the end of the current financial year.
A squabble broke out after opposition parties refused to endorse the report without amendments. DA MP Henro Kruger said municipalities were destroying small businesses by not paying them for goods and services within 30 days and wanted this to be added to the report. Al Jama-ah MP Ganief Hendricks called for Black Cat peanut butter to be taken off the shelves on the grounds that peanut butter should only be made by SMMEs as one of the 1000 products the government undertook to buy from small businesses.
EFF MP Babalwa Mathulela said the party would not endorse the report because it did not address the problems of SMMEs in townships and rural areas, while DA MP Jan de Villiers said the report must instruct the government to revive the energy relief package for SMMEs that was promised in February.