Big bucks for shoddy work

2017-11-05 06:00
Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu (Netwerk24)

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu (Netwerk24)

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Site visits to large infrastructure projects for the departments of basic education, water and sanitation, and public works revealed shocking work that had to be chalked up to irregular expenditure.

Staff from Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s office found that some projects meant for skills development and job creation had beneficiaries whose identity documents were either invalid, or showed they were long dead. In other cases, some beneficiaries were included in a number of projects when they only worked on one.

These were just some of the findings revealed in the national and provincial audit results Makwetu tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, where irregular expenditure among the country’s national and provincial departments reached R45 billion in the 2016/17 financial year.

The report said the Auditor-General’s staff scrutinised five key programmes delivered by the departments of basic education, water and sanitation, public works, human settlements, and agriculture, forestry and fisheries. These included new schools, water developments, the expanded public works programme, housing development finance, and food security and agrarian reform.

Although missed targets in all five departments’ flagship projects were identified, the Auditor-General’s report said the most glaring irregularities were found in education, water and sanitation, and public works.

Department of basic education

Minister Angie Motshekga’s department received an unqualified audit with findings and racked up irregular expenditure of R621.3m. Makwetu found it had spent 93% of its R12.6bn budget on school infrastructure. But only 16 out of the targeted 59 Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative’s schools were built.

The project was also only able to build toilets at 30 out of 265 schools, and 29 out of 280 were able to receive water.

“No school was electrified out of the targeted 620 schools,” the report found.

Makwetu said the department blamed poor work by contractors and implementing agents, which meant some contracts had to be terminated and shoddy work would have to be redone. The department also blamed planned school closures and mergers for its poor numbers.

The department fired contractors in eight out of 20 projects in Eastern Cape, which caused delays and increased costs. In Mpumalanga, all projects were delayed between four and 14 months because more work was needed. And at a school in Limpopo, Makwetu said, auditors found a paraffin stove in a newly built multimillion-rand classroom because a security guard had moved in.

“The floor had been damaged and the walls and cupboards were soiled,” Makwetu said, adding that auditors found that other new classrooms weren’t used for teaching and learning.

Department of water and sanitation

Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s department received a qualified audit with findings and racked up irregular expenditure of R1.7bn.

Although the department spent 99.6% of its R12.1bn budget for water infrastructure development, Makwetu said in a stand-alone performance audit report in November 2016, he found weaknesses in leadership and oversight, funding, project management and intergovernmental coordination.

Ten projects were audited in 2016/17 in which legal contraventions were found. The most common finding was that competitive bidding processes were not followed because the contracts were awarded on an emergency basis, even though they were to run for a number of years.

“We also reported that the lack of processes and systems at the department to monitor compliance meant that irregular expenditure could be even more,” Makwetu said.

The Mopani emergency project was singled out for not being included in the department’s annual performance plan even though it had been running for years, and had cost R364m.

Department of public works

Minister Nathi Nhleko’s department received a qualified audit with findings, and accumulated irregular expenditure of R21.3m.

Makwetu found it spent 99% of its estimated R2bn budget on the expanded public works programme. In 10 projects audited in 2016/17, auditors found that work opportunities reported were not supported by reliable evidence and there was evidence of fraud.

Makwetu recommended departments build effective leadership and governance structures, improve their record keeping and implement audit action plans.

Read more on:    kimi makwetu  |  audit  |  irregular expenditure

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