The Star Late Edition
Curbing irregular spending
IN OCTOBER 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that “corruption has cost South Africa as much as R1trillion”. This is a staggering amount of taxpayers’ money that was wasted, at a time when it is most needed.
According to the South African Revenue Service, of the R1.25 trillion it collected in the past tax year, the main source of revenue was personal income tax. Considering 22 million South Africans collectively gave R528billion of their hard-earned money to this proverbial pot, we must demand better outcomes.
The new auditor-general, Tsakani Maluleke, released a press statement on March 31, calling on our government to “ensure sustainable audit outcomes”. In the 2019/2020 general report on national and provincial government spending, Maluleke emphasised accountability failures must be dealt with more seriously. The same report states irregular expenditure for the year amounted to R54.34billion. This amount could be 31% higher because full amounts were not disclosed. Furthermore, it highlights the year-end balance of irregular expenditure that had accumulated over many years and that have not yet been dealt with, came to R262.03billion.
Local government is another poor value for money entity. According to Statistics SA, South Africa has 257 municipalities, and in 2019/2020 they collectively spent R105.9bn. Yet, according to the auditor-general’s report for the same period, irregular expenditure amounted to R32bn. This amount could also be higher since the full amounts were not disclosed.
This wasteful expenditure of our hard-earned money is the result of gross incompetence and is a crude violation of South Africa’s Freedom Charter. Because of this, daily, we witness the tragic effects of inequality, poverty, hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity.
Given that our economic outlook over the next few years does not inspire confidence, and increasing taxes is not a viable option, our government must look inwards and constructively address the blatant disregard of our people’s money. They must use this money for our people. The cost of this ineptitude is incalculable. How do we quantify the impact of poor service delivery, our crumbling health system, the lack of infrastructure, our education system that is floundering and the lack of decent housing?
Testifying at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry at the end of April, President Ramaphosa said “massive system failure” allowed state capture corruption to flourish in South Africa’s state-owned enterprises and the “ANC is accused number 1 when it comes to corruption”. This is a sad indictment for a government that was chosen by the people for the people and it does not bode well for the constructive rebuilding of our fragile economy and for closing the huge inequality gap.
To accelerate prosecutions and the recovery of the proceeds of corruption, Ramaphosa has several initiatives under way, including the establishment of a special tribunal. However, the legal process may take several years. We need decisive action now.
A streamlined and effective government that delivers value for money throughout the public sector will result in improved service delivery – health, education and housing outcomes for those who contribute to its purse and for those who can’t. When irregular spending is kept in check, we can realise an SA that benefits all our people.