THE auditor-general has once again been unable to give even one of the Eastern Cape’s 45 municipalities a clean audit.
In fact the AG states the municipalities have regressed further in their 2011-2012 audit outcomes since the 2010-2011 financial year.
Audit reports from 29 of the 45 municipalities seen by the Daily Dispatch show t just more than R2-billion has either been spent irregularly by councils or was spent without authorisation.
The other 16 municipalities have yet to table their audit reports to their councils although the deadline was January31 as stipulated by the Municipal Systems Act.
This means the amount reflected for irregular and unauthorised expenditure in the AG’s reports could end up being a lot more.
Provincial AG Singa Ngqwala’s latest report on movements in audit outcomes for 2011-2012 – a year before the envisaged 2014 operation clean audit target deadline – shows none of the councils obtained a financially unqualified audit with no findings.
Ngqwala said nine municipalities had unqualified audits but with findings – from 13 in the previous financial year.
Three of these had regressed to a qualified opinion and one to an adverse opinion.
There are 19 councils with a qualified opinion, an increase from the previous 17.
Of those 19, eleven remained unchanged and five improved from disclaimers and adverse opinions.
Outcomes for 13 councils who earlier earned adverse opinions or disclaimers with findings remain unchanged.
During 2011-2012 they were joined by four more municipalities, three of which had regressed from qualified opinions and one from an unqualified opinion.
Reacting to Ngqwala’s report, local government and traditional affairs MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said he was disturbed by the regressions and by the fact that once again none of the 45 had clean audits. He added the audit outcomes suggested an administrative decline.
Qoboshiyane said he was now pinning his hopes on his department’s “operation clean audit unit”, which focuses on municipalities with adverse and disclaimer audit opinions, to turn things around.
“Our team of specialists will provide intensive support to municipalities in implementing their specific clean audit plans.
“We have helped municipalities to develop and own their clean audit plans so there is more commitment to this programme.
“We will also enter into agreements with municipalities on areas of support which our officials deployed to municipalities would accentuate,” Qoboshiyane said.
Asked about action to be taken on the constant failure by municipalities to account for public funds, Qoboshiyane said his department only afforded support to these councils while implementation remained their responsibility.
“Municipalities now have Municipal Public Account Committees (MPAC) and Audit Committees. The latter has a duty to ensure compliance with the former tasked with ensuring accountability.
“Sadly, we have seen incidents where some MPACs ignore matters for a long time while in Mbhashe Municipality, the MPAC was used to gather information to overthrow the mayor. This was not the responsibility of the MPAC; theirs was to ensure accountability.
“Municipal councillors have a duty to ensure the executive and officials and the council account for daily activities ,” the MEC said.
He said he would work with all mayors to address the situation but where there was no alternative he would use the powers bestowed on him by the Constitution and other laws of the land.
The vacancy rate in municipalities was one of the challenges, he added, saying his focus would be to increase the pace in closing the vacancy rate in all municipalities.
“I caution municipalities not to employ people who just know basic calculations but to find people who understand financial management, accounting, financial regulations and financial management laws,” he said.
In a report presented by Qoboshiyane to the ANC provincial executive lekgotla in East London last weekend, he revealed 12% of all managerial positions were vacant. Six municipalities are without chief financial officers.
Qoboshiyane recommended to the party’s lekgotla municipalities that were financially unviable should be incorporated into other municipalities “for effective service delivery”. — firstname.lastname@example.org