Vote to end cor­rup­tion – Au­di­tor-Gen­eral

CityPress - - Front Page - XOLANI MBAN­JWA xolani.mban­jwa@city­press.co.za

South Africa’s vot­ers have the power to force politi­cians to act on ir­reg­u­lar, unau­tho­rised and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture “via the bal­lot box”, Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Kimi Mak­wetu has said.

After re­leas­ing gov­ern­ment’s au­dited fi­nan­cial re­sults this week, Mak­wetu said the R25.7 bil­lion he re­ported in ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture could in re­al­ity be far higher. This was be­cause his of­fice had au­dited only a sam­ple of the ten­ders and con­tracts awarded in the 2014/15 fi­nan­cial year.

He said South Africans could not ex­pect him to bring to book those re­spon­si­ble for the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, be­cause his of­fice did not have the power to do so.

In­stead, he sug­gested that dur­ing elec­tions vot­ers should hold politi­cians to ac­count.

“It’s clear to me that [vot­ers should] ap­proach them [politi­cians] via the bal­lot box,” said Mak­wetu.

Ad­dress­ing the Na­tional Coun­cil of Provinces this week, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma vowed ac­tion would be taken against gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who failed to ad­here to the Public Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act.

“We also agree with the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral that there should be con­se­quences for bad man­age­ment,” said Zuma, adding that he had in­structed min­is­ters to en­sure of­fi­cials fol­lowed the law when they spent state money. Other­wise they had to face the con­se­quences.

Mak­wetu said sig­nif­i­cant changes had been made in the “hand­ful” of cases where po­lit­i­cal lead­ers had acted and in­ves­ti­gated im­pro­pri­eties.

But for most of the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties iden­ti­fied in the 468 pro­vin­cial and na­tional de­part­ments and state en­ti­ties, there had been “no con­se­quences”.

“The rea­son we know this is that when we go back the next year, we find an en­vi­ron­ment that is no dif­fer­ent to that which we found the pre­vi­ous year.”

He said his of­fice found the same of­fi­cials in their jobs. “Our con­clu­sion is that [politi­cians] did not act – or if [they] acted, [they] did not act de­ci­sively – be­cause this is why the sit­u­a­tion re­mains the way it is.”

De­spite the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s of­fice “red-flag­ging” hun­dreds of bil­lions of rands in the past few years as ir­reg­u­lar, fruit­less, waste­ful and unau­tho­rised ex­pen­di­ture, rogue civil ser­vants have faced lit­tle sanc­tion.

“What it is to us is a red flag, which says: ‘Open your eyes, you who are charged with gov­er­nance.’”

Mak­wetu wel­comed sug­ges­tions by Paul Hoff­man of the In­sti­tute for Ac­count­abil­ity in South­ern Africa that gov­ern­ment should cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent in­tegrity com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate cor­rup­tion.

But he said such a com­mis­sion needed to be in­de­pen­dent to be ef­fec­tive.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to have that in­sti­tu­tion ... to put pres­sure on the politi­cians to act,” said Mak­wetu.

He warned that gov­ern­ment’s cen­tral sup­plier data­base for all ten­ders, which started this year, could be “as good as a waste of money and time” if lead­ers re­mained in­ac­tive. “The ques­tion re­ally is, af­ter all these ef­forts and the en­hance­ments, the one stan­dard test ... is whether those en­trusted with the lead­er­ship role of gov­er­nance act on it or not,” he said.

Mak­wetu said a fail­ure to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions made by watch­dog of­fices such as the Public Pro­tec­tor, and the death of in­ves­tiga­tive units such as the Scor­pi­ons, proved in­ves­tiga­tive bod­ies needed to be in­de­pen­dent of gov­ern­ment.

“You can see for your­self when you look at things like in­ves­ti­ga­tions done in var­i­ous places like the [Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit] over the years, that there’s no short­age of them. It was the Scor­pi­ons within the [Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity],” he said.

“It would be in­ter­est­ing to see how many in­ves­tiga­tive re­ports are sit­ting in var­i­ous places with­out any vis­i­ble ac­tion.”

Mak­wetu said gov­ern­ment was “reck­less” in the man­ner it used con­sul­tants who were “milk­ing” the state in a “free for all”.

“Any­one and ev­ery­one can go in and be a con­sul­tant,” he said. “The bar­ri­ers of en­try are low.” Govern­ment had to pri­ori­tise greater over­sight in the abuse of con­sul­tancy ser­vices and en­sure civil ser­vants de­clared their fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests.

The health, ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic works de­part­ments ac­counted for al­most half (R435 bil­lion) of the coun­try’s R1.1 tril­lion bud­get. The health de­part­ment racked up R400 mil­lion in ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture, ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion in­curred R728 mil­lion and pub­lic works R55 mil­lion.

“When their fi­nan­cial con­clu­sions are as neg­a­tive as they are, you start hav­ing wor­ries about whether the ob­jec­tives – for which ed­u­ca­tion and health are sup­posed to be funded – are be­ing achieved or not.

“I think the ev­i­dence is that in a num­ber of those clin­ics and schools, the stuff that needs to be de­liv­ered doesn’t get done, and the rea­son for it is also shown through the au­dits,” said Mak­wetu.

PHOTO: ELIZ­A­BETH SE­JAKE

ACT NOW Au­di­tor-Gen­eral

Kimi Mak­wetu

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