Clean audits are rare in SA

2009-09-24 00:00

THE 33% of the country’s 283 municipalities that have received clean audits have been asked to help their counterparts that continue to receive disclaimers and qualified opinions from the Auditor-General (A-G).

The request was made by Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka, who called on these municipalities to assist and share their experience. “You can’t have a situation where you have an island of good practice and best practice surroun­ded by a sea of wrongdoing,” Shiceka said.

He added that the aim is to have no disclaimers by 2011 and that by 2014 no municipality or provincial government must have a qualified opinion from the A-G.

While welcoming the initiative by the minister, the Democratic Alliance claims that the heart of the problem is the system of close patronage within the ANC.

DA spokesman on co-operative government Willem Doman explained that this is a system in which the party faithful are chosen over qualified candidates. “At any given time, more than 12% of chief financial officers’ positions are vacant, some for months, because ANC-controlled municipalities can’t find a comrade who is remotely suitable for the position and don’t want to appoint other suitable candidates — even if they are black — because there is a suspicion that they vote for Cope.”

Doman said since 2006 a total of 1 283 professionals and experts have been deployed to municipalities and still the situation is desperate. This is because the ANC does not want to accept that municipal officials should be independent and appointed on merit.

Inkatha Freedom Party co-operative governance spokesman Narend Singh said the lack of capacity is a key contributing factor in local government under-performance.

He called for capacity building programmes to be introduced at municipalities.

Joe Mcgluwa of the Independent Democrats said some municipalities operate as if the Municipal Finance Management Act does not exist.

Mcgluwa added that the ID’s first solution will be to get rid of “fat cat” consultants, “many of whom are only interested in filling their pockets with money instead of providing decent services at a reasonable cost.”

“Our second solution would be to establish effective internal audit units, which would be present throughout the financial year to look out for financial mismanagement and corrupt activities,” Mcgluwa said.

Representatives of political parties are perturbed that 14% of South Africa’s 283 municipalities did not even submit their books for an audit. Of the remaining municipalities those whose books were found to be in disarray include three percent who received an adverse opinion from the Auditor-General and 30% who got a disclaimer about their accounts. Better performing were 20% who were gi­ven a qualified audit. This means there were inaccuracies and/or incomplete information in their books. Thirty-three percent were given a clean audit.

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