The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille, has revealed that from the 387 vacant residential properties owned by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), about 339 are in a broken-down state.
The Department of Public Works declares these buildings are “beyond repairs”
This information came about in a Parliamentary question and answer session, where de Lille further explained that 81 of those properties are beyond repairs and need to be demolished.
“It would seem that DPWI is incapable of maintaining and preserving government properties. The longer these properties remain vacant the more prone they become to vandalism which impacts the value of these buildings as well as the surrounding properties.”
Government officials are accused of facilitating the “hijacking” of state-owned buildings
Recently, it was reported that DPWI officials are cheating the government from millions of rands as they continue to “hijack” and facilitate the illegal rentals of state-owned buildings.
These syndicates are reported to have taken over R127,7 billion through 81, 575 government building and 30,495 pieces of land, and the Minister ordered an investigation to find those behind the illegal leases of state-owned property and those to “blame” for vandalised buildings.
This order preceded a report that will be produced by the Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu, who is scheduled to present it in Parliament in November; on Wednesday, Makwetu noted that government expenditure has reached R61.35 billion, and this amount included R18.5 billion of irregular expenditure, he further disclosed that there are still outstanding unaudited financial statements of departments and entities whose audits were still to come.
“As the Zondo Commission continues to unravel the decade of waste and corruption, it becomes clear that the decaying infrastructure is no doubt a result of maladministration and financial mismanagement at the hands of the ANC government. Public money allocated for the maintenance of these properties clearly did not end up being used for its intended purpose. Instead, these properties are crumbling and are unable to be used to drive economic growth and development.”
Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, briefed a joint meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), and Standing Committee on Appropriations and stated that irregular expenditure by national and provincial departments including the expense of state-owned entities, increased from just under R51 billion in 2017/2018 to R61.3 billion for the 2018/2019 financial year.
Auditor-General: A total of R61.3 billion is calculated for irregular expenditure
According to EWN, Makwetu noted that the amount of R61.35 billion included R18.5 billion of irregular expenditure, disclosed in the unaudited financial statements of departments and entities whose audits were still outstanding.
The committees have vowed to interrogate the offending departments, and its entities in the next few months regarding their audit outcomes, as KwaZulu Natal tallied a total of R12.42 billion, the Gauteng province accumulated R7.13 billion, and national departments totalling R11.25 billion, which are now responsible for the 72% of irregular expenditure.
Scopa has tallied up an R25.1 billion municipal debt to Eskom
On Tuesday, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts declared that the overdue municipal debt to Eskom, at the end of September, increased to R25.1 billion.
The debt backdates to March 2013, which started with an overdue draft of R1.2 billion, the Auditor-General noted that the figures don’t “paint the full picture” of irregular expenditure, as more state-owned entities are yet to be audited, including Transnet.
However, embattled municipalities have topped the list in “wasteful expenditure”, as Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional (CoGTA) continues to evade accountability when her department is tasked with rooting out the core issue.
CoGTA Minister fails to appear in Parliament to discuss challenges facing the department
The Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) was initiated two years ago, to investigate “disappearing funds” in defaulting municipalities that have outstanding debts to Eskom.
The IMTT is chaired by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and not only did she fail to show up to the meeting, but in its lifespan, the IMTT has been tasked with reducing municipal debt to Eskom, however, it has been recorded that instead of decreasing the debt, it has increased from R9.8 billion to the gigantic R25.1 billion that it currently is.
The Democratic Alliance revealed last week that Dlamini-Zuma has only attended one of the six CoGTA Parliamentary meetings she was expected to attend, but the Minister further failed to give substantial responses to many of the opposition’s Parliamentary questions posed to her department.
“Her failure to appear before the Committee, not only indicates a complete lack of urgency or commitment, to resolving the issue of outstanding debt to Eskom, but it has also resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, as the meeting could not continue in her absence, despite the presence of other relevant stakeholders.”
On 9 October 2019, the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development said in a statement that it welcomed the performance and financial annual reports of the Department of Small Business and its entities for the 2018-19 financial year.
Seda and Sefa achieve clean audits
A statement revealed that the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) and Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) achieved clean audits. However, according to the statement, the department received an unqualified audit with some findings.
The department and its two entities, Seda and Sefa, all appeared before the committee on Wednesday. They gave a brief to the committee on their annual performance reports for the 2018/19 financial year.
Small enterprise departments perform well
Committee chairperson Violet Siwela said that while the report said Seda’s and Sefa’s performance was outstanding, it felt that the department itself had performed well.
“Unqualified audit is a big step in the right direction, considering that the department did not have an organogram in the year under review.”
Violet Siwela, Committee chairperson
Siwela’s warning to the department
She further warned:
“We recommend that it pays attention on the areas of concern that were raised by the Auditor-General to achieve a clean audit.”
Violet Siwela, Committee chairperson
Committee encourages Seda and Sefa to work together
The committee also commended the alignment of the services Sefa and Seda provided and encouraged the two entities to continue working together to address the needs of the small, medium and micro enterprises.
By African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has announced they will summon the accounting officers of municipalities who repeatedly fail to achieve unqualified audit reports before Parliament to find out what is going on.
Auditor-General Thembekile Makwetu’s report for the 2017/18 financial year showed only 18 out of 257 municipalities countrywide received clean audits.
This is a marked decrease from the previous financial year despite numerous directives to curtail this problem.
After poor 2016/17 results, Scopa outlined several ways in which municipalities could improve, including implementing proper monitoring systems.
However, the report found that municipalities have been very slow to implement these directives and in some cases have outright ignored them.
Repeatedly offending municipalities
This perfect storm of failing municipalities has left Parliament little choice but to investigate this issue that has the potential to cripple South Africa’s economy even further.
“We have set in motion now a process where particularly the 17 repeat offender municipalities who have had adverse or disclaimer findings for over three years will be prioritised by the committee for hearings so that they can come and account for the fact that they are in such a mess,” Scopa chairman Mkhuleko Hlengwa told African News Agency.
“This will require COGTA [department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs] as a department to come and appear before us and explain the extent to which their interventions have gone and we need to understand whethr the interventions are producing the necessary results.”
Auditor-General’s new powers
The Auditor-General has also been afforded additional powers following amendments to the Public Audit Act, which effectively allows him to take action against public offices that ignore recommendations from the AG’s office.
“What we have told the AG today is that look they have to get the ball rolling. They have been wanting these power, these powers have now been granted to them so there’s no need to dilly dally, there’s no need to walk on eggshells,” Hlengwa said.
Intimidation and violence
Another growing problem with public audits is the threat of violence and intimidation. A public auditor was shot in 2018 while investigating the Emfuleni Municipality in Vanderbijlpark and Hlengwa has called for help from law enforcement agencies.
“The escalation of threats and intimidation are an indication of the extent to which corruption is prevalent. It is because the auditors are unearthing, uncovering the corrupt, the fraudulent and maladministrative processes which are at play in municipalities and so that is why they are at the receiving end of the intimidation,” he said.
“We are expecting the law enforcement agencies and intelligence sector to be able to identify these things. Early detection is very important so we can protect auditors, auditing is a risky job and of course we not ignorant to the fact that political killings generally arise out of the contestation of power as far as tender processes are concerned.”