Message from KZN’s premier

2014-10-01 00:00

LAST week, I convened a meeting of the Premier’s Co-ordinating Forum. The meeting was attended by the executive council, district mayors and leaders of the South African Local Government Association.

I invited the auditor-general (AG) to present a report on the performance of the provincial government and all municipalities in relation to financial management. It was important to interact with the AG because the first year of his term of office coincides with the assessment of the progress we have made as a country, and as KwaZulu-Natal in particular, regarding clean audits.

A few years ago, the government launched Operation Clean Audit 2014. During the launch, we as KZN said all municipalities and provincial departments must achieve unqualified audit opinions by 2014 as the world is demanding greater transparency, both in government and the private sector.

As government, we are aware that a clean bill of health not only attracts investors, but also improves the public image of government. Some investors state that financial information without an auditor’s report is “essentially worthless” for investing purposes. It is, therefore, important that provincial departments and municipalities maintain a strong relationship with the AG’s office.

In my inaugural speech in May, I said that this government would be moving forward prudently in building a sustainable future. I made that statement because at the time the economic climate showed that the global economy was about to plunge into recession again. A cautious approach seemed best.

We were all relieved towards the end of August when Statistics South Africa released a report showing that South Africa’s economy had narrowly avoided recession, posting modest growth of 0,6% in the second quarter.

Although this was a cause for celebration, I believe that we still need to be cautious about how we spend our finances. Prudence has been the central idea over the past five years and remains relevant today to help us build a solid foundation for our future. I believe that our improved financial management will better enable this province to grow and prosper.

During the meeting I assured the AG of our continuing co-operation with his office. Importantly, all members of the executive council, heads of departments, mayors and councillors must continue to provide leadership to ensure adherence to best financial management practice.

I have also called on leadership at all levels to lead the fight and prevent corruption in supply chain management units, an area that is vulnerable to corrupt practices. We must all promote a culture of effective risk management by establishing risk-management forums and measures must be put in place to eradicate fraud and corruption.

It was reported in the media a few years ago that the country could lose as much as 20% of its total procurement budget to graft annually. This can be translated into between R25 billion and R30 billion.

Bribery involves government officials and individuals in the private sector. It is up to me and you to stand up and be counted. I believe that the image of a corrupt province will result in the loss of much-needed domestic, regional and foreign direct investment.

Corruption is a scourge that causes unequal access to socioeconomic development opportunities and government services. The poor are most vulnerable to corruption, both in terms of not being educated enough to demand what rightfully belongs to them and for being easy targets for intimidation and bribery.

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer indicates that corruption affects respondents with lower incomes more than other income groups. As leaders, we must protect the most vulnerable members of society who are affected by this. It is for this reason that we are embarking on a “I Do Right Campaign”. We are promoting integrity within departments. We say “I do right — even when nobody is watching”. We are focusing on individual consciences as opposed to relying on legislative and regulatory prescripts.

Having completed the first 100 days in office, I want us to affirm our commitment to keeping our promises of developing a clean government. I call upon all elected public representatives to live up to the mandate given to us by the electorate on delivering a better life for all. We must uphold the principles of the Constitution. Our primary duty as elected and appointed members of government is loyalty to our constitutional duties. If we lose focus on this, we betray the broader wishes and confidence of the people who have given us the mandate to govern this country and lead it to a more prosperous future for all.

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