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Mphatjie Monareng
 
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Should the opposition head up Scopa?

27 November 2009, 07:08  - Mphatjie Monareng
There is no doubt that the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Wasteful Expenditure Monitor, a campaign aimed at halting extravagant government expenditure, is saving taxpayers millions of rands whilst naming and shaming wrong-doers.

The campaign follows President Jacob Zuma’s promise in his maiden state of the nation address that government under his watch would spend public funds prudently.

Whilst effective in monitoring wasteful and fruitless expenditure at national government level, the campaign falls short when it comes to the other spheres of government.

As shown by successive reports by the office of the Auditor-General, most of the wastage of public finances happens at local government level, where the opposition is more fragmented and the media are either woefully ineffective or non-existent.

It is also at local government level where the provisions of the Municipal Finance Management Act are not being adhered to – and too many delinquents get away with it, much to the disadvantage of those to whom the funds are directed: the poor voters.    

This just goes to show why we need more vigilance as far as the monitoring of the public purse is concerned. And you can’t expect government to monitor itself honestly and impartially – to be player and referee at the same time.  

Opposition in charge?

It should be a constitutional requirement that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) is headed by a member of the official opposition in parliament and provincial legislatures.  

As things stand now, Scopa is headed by Themba Godi at national level; but the man, despite his proven commitment to playing an effective oversight role, has no institutional support behind him. He’s a lone ranger.

The halting of wastage and attempts to retrieve misappropriated funds through questions and answers is good; but we could do more justice if the party with the second largest majority in parliament and legislatures fights for more teeth in the form of Scopa leadership.

A strong Scopa, headed by the official opposition across all legislative bodies, will not just name and shame officials, but will also recommend such strong action as prosecutions, attachment of elicit goods.

At the moment, the ruling party has developed a clever but self-serving strategy: when one of its deployed cadres fails to deliver services as promised to the electorate, they “recall” the cadre before re-deploying him/her elsewhere.  

Demand more

More often than not, we see rogue politicians elevated to higher offices.  

On the face of it, the whole drama behind the “recalling” of mayors and other senior politicians looks like a genuine attempt at holding leaders accountable for their failures; but when you scratch below the surface, you come face to face with the cold reality: we, the people, are being stupefied.

It is high time politicians and their lackeys go to jail (not in and out of hospital) for the looting of the public purse. Otherwise, what message does the condoning of the looting of public funds by politicians send to the general public? That you don’t really need to work in order to get rich?       

The DA, whilst upholding its Wasteful Expenditure Monitor campaign, must demand more than headlines in the newspapers. They must work together with other opposition parties to demand that the position of heads of Scopa in parliament and the legislatures be led by the official oppositions. Newspaper headlines don’t go far enough.

Mphatjie Monareng

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