No clean municipal audits until 2023 – researchers

2014-06-01 15:00

University of the Western Cape (UWC) researchers say ratepayers will have to wait until 2023 for municipalities to get clean audits as most failed to meet yesterday’s deadline for unqualified audits.

At the start of President Jacob Zuma’s first term in 2009, the government promised clean municipal and provincial government audits by the end of May 2014 in what was called the Operation Clean Audit 2014 campaign.

The promise of clean finance books was also part of Zuma’s performance agreement with then ­cooperative governance minister Sicelo Shiceka and his provincial counterparts and mayors.

The agreement, subsequently overseen by Richard Baloyi and Lechesa Tsenoli after two Cabinet reshuffles, included the pledge to reduce service-delivery protests and keep fraud and corruption at a minimum.

The most recent Auditor-General’s report on municipal audits, released late last year, showed that only 48% of the country’s 278 municipalities achieved unqualified audits.

UWC’s research, titled Operation Clean Audit 2014: Why it failed and what can be learned, said there was no practical plan or proper coordination among those involved in the promise to deliver the clean audits.

It said that turning around the finance books would take almost another decade if the current trends continued.

“The first miscalculation was Cogta’s [cooperative ­governance and traditional affairs department] initial ­assumption that it had adequate information about the conditions in municipalities upon which a broad multiyear national turnaround intervention could be based.

“It could not know whether all municipalities were actually in a position to achieve a clean audit by the target date,” said the report written by Derek Powell, Michael O’Donovan, Zemelak Ayele and Tinashe Chigwata of the university’s multilevel government initiative unit.

The report also pointed out that municipal managers faced no sanction for not meeting the target?–?and this meant there was no way of ­enforcing compliance.

Muthotho Sigidi, a deputy director-general at the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said it was clear that clean audits would not be achieved this year, but he would not say if a new deadline would be set.

He refused to comment on the UWC report, saying that he had not read it.

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