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Eric Naki
Political Editor
2 minute read
24 Jun 2021
8:20 am

Audit outcomes highlight poor state of governance

Eric Naki

The lack of political will among the governing elite to deal with financial mismanagement had seen a rise in poor audit outcomes

Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena.

The reports of Auditor-General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke have become so predictable, you can almost tell what is going to happen the following year.

This, however, is not due to the AG’s fault but our dead state of governance at the municipalities. Year after year, we hear grim reports from the AG about the precarious state of finances at our municipalities.

They always paint a dark picture about the running of the councils. The latest report this week by Maluleke is not different.

Once again, our municipalities had performed worse in the 2019-20 financial year audit outcomes and the Covid-19 municipal expenditure.

Irregular expenditure was incurred by 246 of the 279 municipalities, amounting to a whopping R26 billion, mainly due to noncompliance with legislation.

The lack of political will among the governing elite to deal with financial mismanagement had seen a rise in poor audit outcomes.

What else can we expect from a state where nearly all municipalities in the North West were under administration and service delivery had completely collapsed at the majority of Free State municipalities, including Mangaung?

Against this backdrop, it is justified for one to conclude that the post-1994 dispensation had been a mess when it came to governance, with very few exceptions.

Most worrying is the fact that corruption and maladministration are always central ingredients in this poisonous portion. We have yet to see politicians actually made to wear orange overalls as punishment for their malfeasance.

Less than half a dozen have seen the inside of a jail cell, with only the likes of former parliamentary defence portfolio committee chair Tony Yengeni, former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi and former ANC Northern Cape chair and ex-premier John Block making it behind bars.

Those smart enough to exploit the weak criminal justice system had managed to keep the country guessing as to when they finally get behind bars.

Maluleke also found once more that the use of consultants, a scourge that was identified since the beginning of the democratic government as a problem to overcome, was on the increase with 74% of the municipalities relying on money-guzzling consultants.

The committees heard that some of these consultants have caused further damage to the financial health of municipalities, instead of assisting.

The select committee on public accounts and the AG portfolio committee jointly suggested the engagement of law enforcement agencies to follow up on the issues identified by the AG.

But are we likely to see visible action this time around? Another question worth asking: Will they charge those who have been hiring consultants and make them pay back the money they wasted on an expenditure that was long red-carded?

But who will be surprised if we get another report about more consultants brought into the system, which is what we have been hearing for the whole 27 years?

It will be naive to expect the use of consultants to stop because it had been a long-running corridor of corruption and conduit to channel stolen state funds.