The Inkatha Freedom Party in the Legislature is satisfied with the manner in which Provincial Treasury conducts its own business with their own appropriated funds. This Department has, for a successive number of financial years, received a clean audit report from the AG. This is a reflection of leading by example by the Department, as the overall overseer of the provincial funds allocated to all departments and entities.
In respect of the Department’s role of overseeing provincial appropriated funds by all other departments and entities, much still needs to be done. This is an area where the Department needs to improve its functionality. The project of government departments scoring clean audits in their audit reports has remained a pipedream in KwaZulu-Natal for a very long time. It is likely to remain so for a long time to come if the attitude towards compliance with the rule of law does not change for good. We note the target of 90% unqualified audit outcomes in 2024, as presented by the MEC. As Members of this House and with our oversight role, we will give support to the Department in this target. Support that has been given to municipalities and yielded to unqualified audit outcomes is noted with appreciation. Further support that is going to be given to Umkhanyakude, Uthukela, Umzinyathi, Mpofana and eMandlangeni, is also noted with appreciation.
It remains a matter of concern that the two big-spending Departments of Transport and Health have retained qualified audit reports for 2021. Unnecessarily, the Department of Arts and Culture regressed to join these two with a qualified report. This is a matter that Treasury is not directly responsible for, however, Treasury remains the custodian of the utilisation of funds and compliance with Treasury Regulations in the province. Hence our appeal to the Department of Finance in the province to tighten its monitoring responsibility on the finances of other departments and entities.
In the same vein, it remains a matter of concern that the province of KwaZulu-Natal also remains the government with the highest irregular expenditure in the country. This is a trophy we do not need; that we can never be proud of; and we need to discard it. Kwazulu-Natal tops the country with R9 billion in 2020/21 irregular expenditure, R9.7 billion in 2019/20, and R9.9 billion in 2018/19. Hon. MEC, this trend is totally unacceptable.
However, the IFP is happy that when departments and entities apply to Treasury for condoning of irregular expenditure, our Provincial Treasury is very meticulous with matters of compliance and the rule of law when it comes to approving these applications. Departments and entities have a tendency of laxity when it comes to consequence management, investigations, and the submission of documents for proper decisions to be taken. Then they apply for irregular expenditure to be written off. We are happy that Treasury does not just approve blank cheques on these matters. People cannot do wrong and then get off the hook lightly. The Department of Finance needs to be commended for the manner in which they have attended to these write-off applications so far.
In complying with the provincial norm of cost-cutting measures to reduce expenditure, departments and entities must get approval from Treasury and OTP for the filling of vacant posts, before they can action them. The high rate of vacant posts in the province is unacceptable. The reports that the Finance Portfolio Committee gets from departments is that it takes too long for them to get approvals to fill vacant posts, from both OTP and Treasury. This hampers service delivery. We appeal to the MEC to ensure that these matters get attended to. This is not the first time that we have had to make this kind of appeal, Hon. MEC. Some departments remain with vacant key service delivery positions and key managerial positions for far too long.
Hon. Chairperson, like I have stated before in this House, I again recommit our Members and our party to the spirit of service to our country and our province. Where we have to ask questions, we will do so objectively, for the sake of the people of our province. Where we are called upon to contribute in the spirit of service, to the people of goodwill of our province, we will do so without fear or favour, and without hesitation.
The IFP supports approval of the Budget for the year 2022/23 for the Department of Finance.
I thank you.