Municipalities playing chicken with residents’ revenue

2013-10-11 00:00

LOCAL governments abuse public funds because they can, says Professor Deon Scott, an expert in municipal finances at Unisa.

Scott said local governments had little or no disciplinary processes in place, which has led to abuse of rates being “out of control” — as the Mahikeng council’s alleged spending of R132 585 on Nando’s takeaways shows.

“You can take it for granted that there will be a lot of excuses [for this abuse], like officials who had to work long hours overtime. The alleged spending [of R132 585] is, however, totally out of place and cannot be justified.”

In his 2011-12 report on local governments, which was made public in August, the auditor-general (A-G) warned that an environment conducive to “poor performance levels and contempt of laws” ruled in local governments.

The A-G said in his report that at more than 70% of the municipalities and entities there were no consequences for poor performance and transgressions. He warned in his report that when leaders and officials are not held accountable, it created the impression that such actions are acceptable and allowed.

Scott said it seemed there was no motivation to stop waste of taxes.

“The A-G warns about this year after year, but there is no realisation that such mispending is not sustainable.”

The A-G had in his 2011-12 audit found unauthorised spending of R9,7 billion in 181 municipalities — more than double the R4,5 billion in 2010-11.

Irregular expenditure amounted to R9,8 billion, which is R2,8 billion (41%) higher than the previous book year.

The A-G also found fruitless and wasted expenditure of R568 million, more than double the previous year’s R248 million.

The A-G was especially worried that about R252 million of this fruitless and wasted expenditure was only identified during the audit.

Spokesperson Africa Boso said the A-G will comment today on the Mahikeng municipality’s spending.

A senior A-G official, who did not want to be named, said the alleged purchases from Nando’s could not automatically be viewed as fruitless and wasted expenditure, as the money could have come from the catering budget.

“Whether it is fair to the taxpayer is another matter,” said Boso.

R1 000 will buy the following items off the menu at Nando’s (with R11,20 change):

• Combo: 1/4 chicken, standard size chips and one 330 ml soft drink.

• Combo: 1/2 chicken, standard size chips and one 330 ml soft drink.

• Combo: chicken burger, standard size chips and one 330 ml soft drink.

• Combo: Pita bread with chicken and salad, standard size chips and one 330 ml soft drink.

• Combo: chicken wrap, standard size chips and one 330 ml soft drink.

• Combo: One whole chicken and four bread rolls.

• Combo: One whole chicken and four bread rolls.

• Combo: One whole chicken, four bread rolls and an extra large chips.

• Combo: 1/2 chicken, two chicken burgers, extra large chips and two bread rolls.

• Combo: Chicken strips, rice and mixed vegetables.

• One salad

• Eleven 330 ml soft drinks.

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