Budgets for SBC, departments of Transport, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine get assembly nod |07 April 2021
The National Assembly of Seychelles yesterday resumed deliberations on the Appropriations Bill 2021, considering the allocations to public service broadcaster Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), and the department of Land Transport and department of Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine.
Chief executive of SBC, Berard Dupres, and head of finance, Denise Porace, appeared before the assembly to defend the entity’s budget to a sum of R131,968,000, of which R64,584,000 has been allocated to governance, management and administration, while the remaining R67,384,000 is allocated to broadcasting services.
In introducing the budget, CEO Dupres noted the mandate of the broadcaster as laid out in the SBC Act 2011, going further to note the achievements of the entity over recent years.
With regard to this year’s budget, Mr Dupres explained that the total budget comprises a grant of R38.6 million towards the completion of SBC House, Union Vale.
“Therefore, the total operational budget for SBC is R93.4 million, of which R56.5 million is for wages and salaries, and R36.9 million for goods and services. Wages and salaries have reduced by R1.6 million as compared to the 2020 allocation. Goods and services increased by R6.9 million compared to the 2020 allocation, which was at R30 million. It is important to note that for the first time since 2015, the allocation for goods and services has increased, after five years that it remained at R30 million,” Mr Dupres noted.
“R3 million of the R6.9 million will help us to digitise our archives, while the rest is for minor capitals, including digital storage, which is in continuous demand while we undergo the digital transformation,” Mr Dupres explained.
Throughout the deliberations, members were particular concerned with efforts to improve the quality of content and journalism churned out by the broadcaster. Other concerns centred on human resource development and the different avenues that can be explored so as to generate even more revenue for the organisation, especially now that revenues generated from traditional advertising are dwindling, and is expected to further decline in coming years.
With regard to the receipt component in the annual budget, it was revealed that SBC uses funds generated to fund programmes, although over recent years from 2017 to 2020, the entity has spent a total of R56 million, representing an average of R14 million annually to cover expenses that the state could not or would not finance. In 2019, the entity spent R4 million on equipment to allow for live broadcasts. A further R36 million has been used to finance the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) project, Mr Dupres said noting that limited resources are impacting on the objectives to fully transition to digital, the entity’s ability to provide a wide variety of content to satisfy its audience, and content to sustain all three SBC channels. Furthermore, limited finances mean the entity cannot attract and retain great talent and plan ahead with regard to human resources. The entity employs 265 staff presently, 245 of whom are on full-time basis while 20 are on part-time basis, across nine sections.
Clarifying queries relating to the quality of service provided to the public, Mr Dupres highlighted the many challenges SBC faces including limited internet capabilities, which is essential to delivering the expected level of service.
SBC works with all three internet service providers in Seychelles and presently finances these expenses in USD ($).
The session saw some contention between members as to an investigative piece aired by SBC on Monday March 5 on the Dedicated Fund, with some arguing the relevance of the piece, and others dismissing the manner in which SBC addressed the issue.
Eventually, the entity’s budget was eventually approved by 17 votes, while thirteen members abstained from voting.
During the afternoon session, the assembly took on the R9,458,000 allocation for the department of Land Transport, represented by Minister for Transport Antony Derjacques and principal secretary for Land Transport Patrick Andre.
As explained by Minister Derjacques, the ministry is a new ministry grouping together land transport, civil aviation, ports and marine, with a comprehensive policy which unifies the various agencies, namely, the Seychelles Land Transport Agency (SLTA), Road Transport Commission, Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC), Seychelles Maritime Safety Authority (SMSA), Seychelles Ports Authority (SPA), Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), Air Seychelles and the Maritime Accidents Investigations Board.
“The total budget for the ministry, its two departments, is R13 million, with Land Transport at R9.4 million, while the budget for Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine is R3.6 million. The two departments together have 28 staff, and there are 3 vacant posts,” Minister Derjacques stated, as he presented the budget.
As per the Appropriations Bill, 2021, the budget comprises two programmes, the first of which is governance, management and administration to a sum of R8,312,000, while the second, project planning and development control has been allocated R1,146,000. A sum of R5,132,000 is appropriated for wages and salaries, and use of goods and services R4,326,000 for the year.
Among the issues which the assembly were particularly concerned about were policies pertaining to the importation of vehicles into the country, the volume of traffic and congestion on Mahé, road projects within respective districts, road safety features, as well as matters relating to taxi operators and the SPTC.
Members also seized the opportunity to put forth proposals towards improved road safety and security, including introducing more signage and pelican lights at crossings.
As for the department of Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine to a sum of R3,692,000, Minister Derjacques highlighted an increment of R1,252,000 in this year’s allocation as compared to the revised 2020 budget which stood at R2,439,000. The increment is to account for a newly confirmed policy analyst at a cost of R209,000, a vacancy for a second policy analyst at the same cost annually. Moreover, the increment reflects a change in budget allocations from the SMSA to the department, as the role of marine accidents investigation is transferred over to a board within the department.
Despite the increment, Minister Derjacques proposed that a financial analyst be recruited, on account of the department’s core functions in managing and overseeing the various agencies, among which are large state-owned enterprises such as Air Seychelles and SCAA and the workload of the department.
Extensions on the Seychelles International Airport and Victoria Port were hotly deliberated upon.
“The Ministry of Transport is claiming back its central role to help towards economic and social development, and as I said, we opened the airport, we are trying to attract more and more airlines, and this has resulted in a traffic jam this morning at Providence, a town which was dead in a year,” Minister Derjacques stated proudly, highlighting the importance of synergy between the ministry and other agencies.
The budget allocations for both the land transport department to a sum of R9,458,000, and the civil aviation, ports and marine department at a total of R3,692,00, were also approved. A total of 29 members voted in favour of the budget for transport.
The assembly resumes this morning.