AG says senior staff shortages hamper functioning of state

2010-12-04 13:06

Vacancies at senior management level are among the factors that are ­hampering the functioning of ­government, Auditor-General (AG) Terrence Nombembe says.

“In most instances you find that things do not happen because there are not sufficient people in the finance department to do the job, or at senior level there are not sufficient people to supervise the jobs,” he said.

He expressed concern that his auditors still found that many ­departments failed to produce ­evidence to back up information they provide on service delivery.

Nombembe, recently elected as the president of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (Intosai), said most national and provincial ­government departments did not keep track of their assets.

Municipalities are not faring very well. Many of them still ­require support and they do not have enough money to hire the professionals they need to keep their ­financial books in order and ­improve service delivery.

“The ones that are having stagnation insofar as the quality of their information is concerned are Eastern Cape, North West, ­Northern Cape and Free State.

“The biggest factor that drives that performance is the extent to which at provincial level there is proper co-ordination by the local ­government department and the treasury department to support ­municipalities.

“Where that co-ordination has been working well – as in KZN, Western Cape and Gauteng – there has been improvement in this ­respect,” Nombembe said.

The National Treasury said this week that government and private households together owe municipalities R40?billion – a situation which makes it difficult for ­cash-strapped municipalities to meet their obligations.

It is not surprising, then, that municipalities owe the AG R140?million in audit fees, according to his latest annual report.

“With regards to their ability to pay fees, this situation is sometimes resolved by the provinces coming to the party and assisting municipalities by paying on their behalf. Sometimes it is about ­having arrangements with municipalities to pay on terms,” he said.

Nombembe reckons, however, that many municipalities fail to provide service delivery information to enable his organisation to audit their performance. This runs parallel with the grievances of residents over service delivery by some municipalities.

“Reporting on service delivery information is very inadequate, and therefore where citizens find themselves raising concerns, to a large extent it is consistent with what we are seeing.

“That is why the emphasis we are placing on reporting on ­service delivery is very serious. It is very critical for municipalities to say ‘we have delivered to these communities and here is the ­evidence’,” Nombembe said.

About 2% of the AG’s income from performance audits comes from the institution’s work as part of the panel of auditors for the United Nations; something the ­organisation has been doing for the past decade.

Nombembe said the international audit work enabled the ­organisation to recruit and keep the kind of “professional outfit” it needed to keep its professional standards high.

“That exposure gives us the ability to recruit trainees and ­professionals into the organisation, because we are competing with other professionals who have access to international opportunities. And when people come to the organisation, some of them have ambitions to get exposure beyond South Africa,” he said.

Nombembe’s appointment to Intosai is seen as an affirmation of the ­professionalism of SA’s ­supreme audit institution.

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