OUTGOING Auditor-General (A-G) Terence Nombembe has painted a damning picture of the KZN provincial government’s reliance on expensively paid consultants.
Between 2008 and 2011, R37,6 billion was spent on these experts with the departments of Health, Transport and Agriculture having splashed out a total of R14,7 billion.
The audit also uncovered the following:
• The three problematic departments had awarded 34 contracts worth an estimated R772 million where it was found that a competitive procurement policy was flouted.
• Internal capacity constraints and high vacancy levels in the departments.
• Contracts with some consultants were not signed and consultants were sometimes hired to perform the core functions and daily operations of the departments.
• Transfer of skills was sometimes not included in the contracts or was not done while at the same time payments to consultants were not always properly monitored, the report said.
• Nombembe said the audit found 16 consultants were appointed without following competitive bidding processes.
“The total contract value for these consultants amounted to R368 676 193,” he said.
Nombembe’s report had evaluated measures instituted by the different department’s managers to ensure resources were procured economically and were used efficiently and effectively.
In the report tabled at the KZN legislature last week, Nombembe said the departments were selected for audits based on the A-G’s assessment of possible weaknesses in their use of consultants through other audits and their expenditure trends.
He added that the departments had not demonstrated transparent pre-selection processes before the appointments were done.
“The main reason provided for single-source appointments was that the consultants were required urgently. Therefore, it could not be determined whether these appointments were made in the best interests of the departments and at the lowest possible cost,” Nombembe said in his report.
He added that 14 of the contracts had exceeded R1 million despite the tender policies requiring departments to report to his office or Treasury. “The departments acknowledged their oversight in not reporting accordingly.”
The A-G also said the departments did not have strategy and policy on the use of consultants resulting in the cost-effectiveness of using consultants not being analysed.
“The departments also did not distinguish between areas where internal capacity was required and areas where consultants should be used.
“As the departments did not plan strategically for the use of consultants, consultants were appointed on an ad hoc basis without considering the long-term effects.”
Nombembe bemoaned the lack of monitoring and enforcement of compliance. “Appropriate action is also not taken against those who contravene existing laws, regulations and policies.”
He said where consultants were hired, the capacity of departments to monitor and evaluate projects should be strengthened. “This will ensure that all project deliverables and related objectives are achieved. In instances where deficiencies are detected, corrective action must be imposed promptly.”