KZN premier urged to help manage taxes

2013-10-22 00:00

PRESSURE is mounting on the KZN Office of the Premier to set an example for other provincial departments in managing taxpayers’ money.

This came from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) after the premier’s office again obtained an unqualified audit opinion with matters of emphasis from the auditor-general for the 2012/13 year.

The department, which guides other departments on policy priorities, received the audit report for the era under former premier Zweli Mkhize.

In his report, the auditor-general (AG) found:

• R11,19 million in irregular expenditure was incurred due to the flouting of tender policies, among other things;

• Service providers were paid monies owed to them after the 30-day time frame, resulting in R79 330 being charged in late payments;

• R5,7 million was underspent in the capital budget;

• Staff were paid for overtime work that was not approved in advance in line with policy.

Responding to some of the findings, the Office of the Premier said the R5,7 million was due to renovations that did not take place owing to additional funding that was requested and transferred late in the financial year and delays in hiring a contractor.

The department said the renovations were under way after the roll-over of funds was requested.

It also said employees had been briefed to ensure there was compliance with policies, among other things.

But, this did not stop parliamentarians from calling on the premier’s office to get its act together and take tough action against responsible officials.

The IFP’s Blessed Gwala said issues identified during the audit should have been detected at an early stage. “There are managers; they get paid salaries every month,” he said.

“How long will we sit here to interrogate people who qualify for positions and get paid every month, but fail to comply with supply chain management, PFMA etc?” Gwala asked.

The DA’s Mark Steele said the premier’s office should set the tone for the entire provincial government.

“We expect higher standards of reporting on performance objectives and [for the premier’s office to] get clean audits,” Steele said.

He also said it was unacceptable that the Office of the Premier had obtained the same audit finding for two years in a row.

Scopa chairperson Sipho Nkosi said the repeat findings meant that Office of the Premier’s action plan was flawed or was not followed up.

Nkosi echoed calls for action against errant officials responsible for the repeat findings by the auditor-general. “Set an example, once heads roll in thepremier’s office, others will realise that there is no time to joke,” he said.

Director-general Nhlanhla Ngidi agreed that the premier’s office should lead by example. “Already there are about three officials issued with final warning [letters] because their action or inaction led to some areas being questioned,” he said, adding should any official continue to underperform, they would be hauled before disciplinary hearings.

Ngidi also said the Office of the Premier has noted that departments did not train their officials. The KZN government academy, in partnership with National Treasury, was rolling out courses on finance issues.

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