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EDITORIAL: Looting must stop now

2018-05-27 12:47

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If the latest municipal audit outcomes are not worrying President Cyril Ramaphosa, we are in deep trouble.

In what could be viewed as a desperate plea to Ramaphosa to act, Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu decried government’s inaction in dealing with looters when he released the municipal audit outcomes for 2016/17 in Parliament this week.

Makwetu painted a picture of a local government tier that has refused to account for how it spends its money, especially over the past five years.

The first sentence of his statement prepared reporters for the bad news: “The Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, today reported an overall deterioration in the audit outcomes of South Africa’s municipalities for 2016/17.”

It detailed how the AG office’s “constant and insistent advice and caution to those charged with governance and oversight about administrative lapses since 2013” were ignored.

Makwetu lamented how a lack of leadership in disciplining the culprits, who have flouted basic process, has hampered municipal governance.

His office audited 257 municipalities in 2016/17. Of those, 45 got worse, and only 16 improved. Only 33 municipalities (13% overall) received a “clean” audit.

“Not only did the unqualified opinions on the financial statements decrease from 68% to 61%, but the financial statements provided to us for auditing were even worse than in the previous years. Only 22% of the municipalities could give us financial statements without material misstatements.”

What follows is a jaw-dropping sentence about reported noncompliance with key legislation at 86% of municipalities – the highest since 2012/13. Irregular and unauthorised expenditure has rocketed, as has fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

If Ramaphosa and his #ThumaMina brigade are to halt corruption, they must do something about local government chaos.

We suggest the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department appoints qualified and competent municipal managers and Treasury appoints their chief financial officers. That could be the first step to clean the rot. Those found to have flouted rules, causing the state to lose millions, should be brought to book and made to pay back the money. Then, the message will be clear – local government is not where money is wasted.

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