The minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, announced during the Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday (26 October) that R2 billion will be set aside for the restoration of the damaged parliamentary buildings – caused by a three-day fire that gutted parts of the precinct, including the historic National Assembly Chamber, in January this year.
The fire damaged key offices, chambers and meeting rooms in the National Assembly and Old Assembly buildings.
Following the fire, parliament – together with the department of public works and infrastructure – assessed the extent of the damage caused, the estimated costs and the quantification of the damage. The assessment was then followed by a submission to the Treasury for a special allocation of funds to restore the buildings over a three-year timeframe.
In the submission to the Treasury, parliament noted that the funds be directly allocated to them instead of the department of public works and infrastructure.
“The allocation allows parliament to urgently deal with infrastructure challenges posed by the fire, which includes rebuilding damaged structures, interim arrangement for the physical return of all members of parliament for plenary and committee sittings, broadcast infrastructure and modernisation of committee rooms to enable hybrid meetings,” said parliament in a statement.
“The allocation announced by the minister during the MTBPS gives an added impetus to the process of rebuilding and returning parliament to its optimal operation,” it added.
In addition to the R2 billion set aside, a further allocation of R118 million was given for unforeseen and unavoidable expenditures due to the impact of both the fire and Covid-19 on the operations of parliament.
Furthermore, National Treasury has also committed to allocating R100 million per annum in the medium-term period towards remedying parliament’s budget baseline, “which suffered significant erosion over the years through budget cuts,” said parliament.
“We consider this a step in the right direction towards eventually attaining the requested R300 million over the same period to fully restore the baseline to enable parliament to discharge its constitutional functions,” it added.