Mokonyane bomb­shell

Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Depart­ment never met former min­is­ter to re­port fi­nan­cial sham­bles


THE WA­TER and San­i­ta­tion Depart­ment dropped a bomb­shell when it told Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day that its au­dit com­mit­tee never met former min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane to re­port the sham­bles in the in­sti­tu­tion’s fi­nances.

This was re­vealed when the depart­ment and the Wa­ter Trad­ing En­tity ap­peared be­fore the stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts (Scopa) to ac­count for their fi­nances.

In his 2017-18 re­port, Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Kimi Mak­wetu found that the depart­ment in­curred R1.6 bil­lion in ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture and R4.5bn in prior years.

Mak­wetu said R1.977bn in ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture was caused by im­ple­ment­ing agents and that R933m was in­curred in unau­tho­rised ex­pen­di­ture and R11.5m in fruit­less and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture.

This took place against the back­drop of weak in­ter­nal con­trols and depart­ment’s lead­er­ship marred by act­ing di­rec­tor-gen­er­als and in­sta­bil­ity in the chief fi­nan­cial of­fice po­si­tion.

Yes­ter­day, Scopa heard that the depart­ment has a func­tional au­dit com­mit­tee that in­ter­acted with act­ing di­rec­tor-gen­eral Deb­o­rah Mo­chotlhi, a move de­scribed as en­cour­ag­ing to en­gage the man­age­ment on the risks that are be­ing iden­ti­fied.

How­ever, au­dit com­mit­tee chair­per­son Japie du Plessis said the com­mit­tee, ap­pointed in April 2016, con­sisted of two mem­bers after an­other re­signed in July.

“We is­sued ev­ery quar­ter a re­port from the au­dit com­mit­tee to the min­is­ter and our first re­port was is­sued on Septem­ber 14, 2016, to min­is­ter Mokonyane, but we never had a meet­ing,” he said.

Du Plessis told of an in­stance when Mokonyane had or­dered her then chief of staff to set up a meet­ing with the com­mit­tee.

“The bot­tom line is the old min­is­ter and the au­dit com­mit­tee never had a meet­ing,” Du Plessis said.

He also said they met cur­rent min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti on June 1 and there­after held two other times.

This was con­firmed by Mo­chotlhi, who said upon be­ing ap­pointed act­ing di­rec­tor-gen­eral by min­is­ter Nk­winti, the au­dit com­mit­tee had ex­pressed con­cern that they have been try­ing to meet Mokonyane over some time.

Mo­chotlhi had fa­cil­i­tated the meet­ing with Nk­winti and these were sub­se­quently held reg­u­larly.

She also said the au­dit com­mit­tee had com­plained that the man­age­ment did not do enough to ad­dress in­ter­nal au­dit find­ings and there­fore ren­dered the com­mit­tee re­dun­dant.

Du Plessis said they found huge back­logs on ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture that was not in­ves­ti­gated.

“At the mo­ment they just fi­nalised the 2017-18 in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Du Plessis also re­vealed that up to the last fi­nan­cial year, there had been no proper ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture reg­is­ter. “It was not up to stan­dard. That’s why we had re­cur­rence of find­ings of pre­vi­ous years,” he said.

Scopa chair­per­son Themba Godi noted that the min­utes of the au­dit com­mit­tee de­tailed cor­re­spon­dence sent to Nk­winti and Mokonyane.

“When I read those let­ters, I mean, they are very com­pre­hen­sive in terms of what the is­sues are and is­sues to be pri­ori­tised for at­ten­tion,” Godi said.

When he asked about the min­is­ters’ re­sponses, Du Plessis said only Nk­winti had acted on their cor­re­spon­dence and in­structed Mo­chotlhi to ad­dress the au­dit find­ings.

This prompted Godi to re­mark that it could not be said that the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship was ig­no­rant of nitty grit­ties at de­tailed level of fi­nan­cial chal­lenges.

“Of course life is a choice, so the choice was to just ig­nore these.”

He said con­cern ought to be seen from the high­est level at both ad­min­is­tra­tive and po­lit­i­cal lev­els be­cause pub­lic funds were in­volved.

Godi also said the ques­tion of lead­er­ship and in­ter­nal con­trol was very crit­i­cal.

“In the ab­sence of in­ter­nal con­trol, you will al­ways have find­ings that in­clude ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture, waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture, poor con­tract man­age­ment and poor bud­get man­age­ment.

Kimi Mak­wetu

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