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.