HON L DE KLERK, MPL
The SCOPA report paints a very sombre representation about the state of public funds management, accountability and lack of leadership by officials who occupy positions within public departments in our province. The leadership of these departments have continuously failed to comply with regulations, rules and controls put before them to follow. As a result, there has been a regression in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial audit outcomes for 2017/2018. The call for compliance with laws and regulations or controls within the Supply Chain Management continues to fall upon deaf ears.
ROLE OF THE LEGISLATURE COMMITTEES
Officials must be held responsible for failures on their part that leads to irregular expenditure or any contraventions of the PFMA or other legislation that governs spending from the public funds. There is still much to be done to achieve better results and therefore the role of this House to hold departments and entities accountable through various committees and other processes enunciated in the Standing Rules is questionable. At no point should this house allow defiant and dishonest behaviour to go unpunished. Committees are responsible for overseeing how various departments manage their financial affairs and as such they must ensure that the legislation that governs public spending is upheld and protected.
In this context, the IFP expresses grave concern that officials from departments who receive bulk of the provincial budget allocation (Department of Health, COGTA and Agriculture and Rural Development) continue to regress and disregard rules and procedures that are in place to ensure that public funds are used for its intended purpose, which is to merely provide basic services to the people of this province.
SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT FAILURES
Year after year issues of supply chain management are identified, and year after year we are presented with urgent interventions that simply don’t seem to working. In many departments accounting and finance management lack proper leadership and lack willingness towards enactment, introduction and upbringing of laws and rules to manage public finances better. Over the years we continue to deal with ineffective review and reporting that forms the basis for the material misstatements that only get corrected by departments after the errors had been pointed out to them by the Auditor General. If material misstatements are picked up in the financial statements, it can only point to incompetence and/or dishonesty with ulterior motives. This is a matter of grave concern for us.
Hon Speaker, the PFMA makes it clear that accounting officers and authorities are responsible for preventing irregular and unauthorized expenditure because irregular expenditure is spending that was not incurred in the manner prescribed by legislation and compliance; in other words, somewhere in the process departments officials did not comply with the applicable legislation. Identifying these irregular and unauthorized expenditures only is not enough, impact of these should be investigated and if negligence is found, there must be consequences such as disciplinary action, recovery of losses, cancelling of contracts and opening of cases to police.
Similarly, the number of cases investigated in these departments and public entities worryingly drag for lengthy periods which result in officials and “friends of comrades” to get away with crime as they eventually get forgotten and funds not paid back. We continue to witness cases that remain unresolved while some lawbreakers contaminate the system even further. In the Department of Agriculture, Education and COGTA there are cases that have been dragging since 2009, 2010. How is this even possible? Did these departments even opened case of fraud that is investigated by Hawks?
OFFICIALS DOING BUSINESS WITH STATE
Hon speaker, we are deeply concerned with the number of public officials who are doing business with the state which is alarmingly high. Departments like Dept of Education are operated like Spaza Shops with more 100 employees doing business with the state and with fake qualifications. Almost 279 educators scamming the department remote incentives fraudulently through falsification of schools and their particulars. The IFP demands that all monies be urgently paid back by all those that involved in this looting. Making them to sign Acknowledgement of Debts is just not enough. The looting of state funds and resources needs to be stopped by means possible.
The under-spending on allocated budget is high and there remains great instability in respect of departmental leadership. The crisis in Department of Health, Education, Agriculture and in public entities like Amafa KwaZulu-Natal are largely attributed to critical vacancies remaining unfilled which make up the prime reasons as to why these departments fail to fulfil their desired mandates. It is clear that MECs get away with such recklessness because they are “protected”, we are suffocated by this and it should not be allowed to continue if we are indeed serious about achieving clean audits.
MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS AND THUMA MINA CAMPAIGN
Hon Speaker, the IFP would like to emphasize its concerns over the province receiving overall regression audit outcomes for 2017/2018. This is a clear indication that this government is failing miserably to achieve what it sets out to. While it talks of achieving clean audits and good governance through Thuma Mina, the decision-makers are not taking responsibility for failure to achieve such. It is not a surprise that COGTA regressed with qualified audit when its irregular expenditure almost tripled from R59. 569 million to R139.120 million.
STRATEGIC PLANS NS ANNUAL PERFORMANCE PLANS
The Auditor General states that with regard to the predetermined plans and objectives included in the Annual Performance Plans of the Departments and public entities, accounting officers must ensure that they are relevant and measurable and that they are in line with their strategic plans. Yet there are departments that cannot provide sufficient evidence to support any of the selected programmes. This tells us that some departments are not aligning their APP with their strategic plans and budgets on purpose to achieve their secret agendas. It makes us wonder if these accounting officers and officials are employed because they are suitably qualified and competent to be involved in corruption and mismanagement, because if they qualify to do their professional jobs, they should be working towards achieving the target of clean audit opinions. Many of the issues raised by SCOPA and the Auditor General can be resolved and recurrence avoided if only the most competent and suitably qualified people are employed.
LACK OF ACTION ON LAWBREAKERS
Speaker, what should ring alarm bells for us as a Legislature is that even though there are recurrent audit findings within departments and public entities each year, there is very little or no disciplinary action against accounting officers and senior officials. Yes, we do hear of suspensions but after a few months the very same official appears in another senior post in the same or another department. Yes, we are aware that Chapter 10 of the PFMA and Treasury Regulation 4 deal with Financial Mismanagement. But of what effect are these pieces of legislation if they are to remain words on paper? These pieces of legislation must be enacted and upheld if we are to achieve clean audit outcomes.
If there is no consequences there will be no change in the outcome. The IFP is sick & tired on calling for consequences and demands action.
PERFOMANCE BONUSES BLOATING WAGE BILL
Hon Speaker, the IFP contemplates the views that there must be something seriously wrong when performance bonuses are paid to officials whose departments get qualified or regressed audit outcomes. This is why the departments and state entities wage bill is bloated because surely bonuses and benefits should be paid only if the departmental performance warrants it. It only makes sense that a performance bonus should not be something that is dished out annually irrespective of the achievements of that department. There should be strict criteria that are followed through an independent body scrutiny in order for an official to be awarded a performance bonus and benefits.
Madam Speaker, the IFP therefore stresses that it is imperative that all MECs take charge and ensure that officials within their respective departments fall in line in terms of compliance and that they be held accountable for any transgressions of legislation. The point needs to be made very clearly – Treasury regulations exist for a purpose and that purpose is to ensure clean government and the value for money in application of public funds.
I thank you