Regarding the Auditor-general’s latest report on the local government audit, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) notes that there were only marginal improvements in local government audit results. We are however concerned that 14 municipalities lost their clean audit status, while only 9 cleaned up their acts. It simply means that good governance at local level, and effective municipal management, is moving in the wrong direction.
It is heartening that the Auditor-general’s office, as a Chapter 9 institution, seems to be doing its job without fear or favour and does not shy away from fulfilling its Constitutional mandate.
The UDM is on record regarding Government’s over-reliance on consultants and it is discouraging to hear that consultancy fees for financial reporting services increased to R838 million.
The greatest worrying factors are that:
1) Municipalities spend more than they have, their current liabilities exceed current assets at year-end, debtors are not paying or delay payment, as well as late payment of creditors.
2) There has been no improvement on the perennial concerns of the Auditor-general about contracts awarded to employees, councillors, their families and other state officials.
3) Even though fruitless and wasteful expenditure is down 21%, irregular expenditure has increased by just over 50%, which the Auditor-general said was “the highest since we started tracking the values”.
Given the yearly damning observations, the UDM doubts if councils and municipal administrations take the Auditor-general seriously. The Auditor-general is simply ignored and the powers-that-be go about their merry ways without caring about the implications of their looting of State coffers and failing management. There are no repercussions for failing municipal administrations, and the UDM believes it might be necessary to have an Auditor-general with teeth.
The UDM also notes an interesting trend regarding fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure by the Government; in particular at local sphere. This trend is mostly expressed during a year of general elections (national, provincial and local) as well as in a year of the conferences of the African National Congress (ANC) and its Alliance Partners.
This trend is manifested in this year’s report, with the year preceding being Municipal Elections. We will not be surprised to notice a spike in expenses when, this time next year, another report is issued after the conferences of the ANC and its Alliance partners.
The UDM will consider investigating this trend to establish whether public monies are not being used to fund internal political party programmes. If this is the case, it will be proof of yet another thievery.
It is easy to look at the figures presented by the Auditor-general as list of amounts, but one must never forget that there are billions of Rands involved each year, which should be spent on bettering the lives of South Africans and not lining the pockets of the few.