The car­ni­val has come to town

CityPress - - Voices - Du­misane Lu­bisi voices@city­ Fol­low Du­misane on Twit­ter @Du­misaneLu­bisi

Ear­lier this month, eThek­wini deputy mayor Nomvuzo Sha­bal­ala, her ANC coun­cil­lors and city of­fi­cials were said to be so joy­ful, they came close to pop­ping Cham­pagne to cel­e­brate. One would have as­sumed that ei­ther the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had been named best-run in the world, or rev­elry was still on the go fol­low­ing the Septem­ber an­nounce­ment of eThek­wini be­ing se­lected host of the 2022 Com­mon­wealth Games.

No, and no. Sha­bal­ala and co’s mer­ry­mak­ing was of a dif­fer­ent kind. eThek­wini had just re­ceived news from the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral (AG) that the coun­cil had re­ceived a clean fi­nan­cial au­dit.

“Fi­nally, we have a clean au­dit,” Sha­bal­ala was quoted as say­ing, to hu­mongus ap­plause from said party col­leagues and city of­fi­cials.

“Our clean au­dit is not a clean au­dit just be­cause we are sav­ing money; it is be­cause of the ser­vices we are pro­vid­ing to the com­mu­nity. Some of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that brag about clean au­dits ... are not even spend­ing the money. Of course [we can boast] we have the ac­co­lades on the qual­ity of life. With that, con­grat­u­la­tions, team. A lot of loud­mouths will now be shut.” More cheer­ing. Given that this was the city’s first clean au­dit in 16 years, per­haps it was worth all the carous­ing.

Three months ear­lier, deputy min­is­ter in the pres­i­dency Buti Manamela had called a press brief­ing to tell South Africa and the world “of the mile­stone achieved by the Na­tional Youth Devel­op­ment Agency (NYDA)”. The oc­ca­sion? To cel­e­brate the fact that the agency had de­liv­ered its first clean au­dit re­port since its for­ma­tion back in 2008.

The NYDA has long been known as an em­ploy­ment agency for the ANC Youth League and its cronies, with lit­tle or noth­ing to show for ac­tu­ally de­vel­op­ing youth in a coun­try where un­em­ploy­ment is sky-high.

But it was in Oc­to­ber when the clean au­dit car­ni­val shot to new heights. Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula told re­porters: “A clean au­dit is not child’s play. Peo­ple work hard for this. A clean au­dit to us means other de­part­ments can also achieve it.”

This our min­is­ter an­nounced in Pre­to­ria af­ter be­ing awarded a medal by the AG’s of­fice for his de­part­ment’s clean 2014/15 au­dit out­come.

Mbalula went on: “If sports and recre­ation’s Razzmatazz can get it [the clean au­dit], all of us in gov­ern­ment can make it ... I am very ex­cited about the clean au­dit. It is the envy of ev­ery de­part­ment ... We achieved the same sta­tus last year and we are main­tain­ing it. This shows we have vi­sion, brain power and ca­pac­ity to gov­ern in our own de­part­ment. It is a great re­sult.”

By now you must be ask­ing your­self where I am go­ing with this. Does any­one re­mem­ber 2009, when gov­ern­ment launched Oper­a­tion Clean Au­dit 2014? It was aimed at en­sur­ing all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and pro­vin­cial de­part­ments re­ceived clean au­dits by 2014 – at least when it came to fi­nan­cial re­port­ing, per­for­mance re­port­ing and com­pli­ance.

A no­ble and am­bi­tious pro­gramme, it failed to de­liver on its man­date, but there is a sil­ver lin­ing: mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are at least at­tempt­ing to be ac­count­able for what is ex­pected of them.

The pro­gramme sim­ply ex­pected mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to keep re­ceipts for ev­ery bit of spend­ing con­ducted and en­sure that pro­cure­ment pro­cesses were fol­lowed to the let­ter. But for most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, the same au­dit out­comes are an­nounced an­nu­ally by the AG’s of­fice: fi­nan­cial man­age­ment is in dis­ar­ray and, in some in­stances, the books are so bad that au­di­tors fail to even give an opin­ion.

And in the midst of all this come the rev­ellers, à la Sha­bal­ala, Manamela and Razzmatazz, as Mbalula is af­fec­tion­ately known.

What ex­actly are they so ec­static about? Of­fi­cials in gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and state-owned com­pa­nies should, by their very port­fo­lios, be ac­count­able for how they spend the pub­lic purse. It goes with­out say­ing that this en­tails fol­low­ing cor­rect pro­ce­dures when award­ing ten­ders rather than de­cid­ing them based on highly placed con­nec­tions, and keep­ing metic­u­lous records of ev­ery pro­cure­ment. This sounds easy to do and, in­deed, it should be easy. Well, not ac­cord­ing to the AG’s fig­ures. We still have de­part­ments that are un­able, or un­will­ing, to do the sim­ple task of re­ceipt keep­ing. Do these of­fi­cials not want to carouse with their eThek­wini coun­ter­parts, Manamela, Mbalula et al?

Not to be a party-pooper but, in my hum­ble opin­ion, be­ing self-con­grat­u­la­tory casts as­per­sions on those of­fi­cials who think they have done great jobs by just ob­tain­ing clean au­dit re­ports. Do they not re­alise these re­ports are part and par­cel of their port­fo­lios? Have any of these es­teemed heads asked them­selves what real dif­fer­ence they make to the lives of South Africans daily?

This hype re­minds me of the way we laud our top goal scor­ers in the PSL ev­ery year, de­spite their in­abil­ity to break the 10-year record of 35 goals that Collins “The Hur­ri­cane” Mbe­suma, then a Kaizer Chiefs striker, scored in all com­pe­ti­tions.

All sound, with lit­tle sub­stance.

Per­haps those of us try­ing to help or do good are the very peo­ple who need to lis­ten most

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