The outgoing Auditor-General (AG) Terence Nombembe released national and provincial departments audit reports in Parliament yesterday. These reports indicate that the government has wasted over R30bn. There is a relatively slight increase as this figure was pegged at R24.8bn last year. According to the AG, this wastage comprises irregular expenditure which amounts to about twenty-six and half billion rand. In addition to this, there is unauthorized spending as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure which together amount to just under four and half billion rand.
Mr. Nombembe hastens to add that it is not all doom and gloom as there is a general improvement from the past years. For example, he says, the good news is that government was becoming more aware of wasteful land irregular expenditure and therefore paying better attention to it. More specifically, just under a quarter of the government departments and parastatals posted clean audits. The most concerning audits were those of the education, health and public works due to the size of their portfolios.
Providing a more detailed analysis, the AG, stated that of the about 450 government departments and entities, just over 22% had received clean bills of health. This showed an increase of well over five percent from the last financial year. This, the AG contends, is an indication that things are moving in the right direction. He urged those departments that had improved to avoid backsliding. He further advised these departments and entities that in order to help themselves improve their performance, a government school for public servants had been launched and these institutions should look at making use of them. Another way in which they were hoping to improve performance of public entities was the ongoing amendment of the Public Service Act which sought to ban civil servants from doing business with the government.
Making a province by province analysis, Terence Nombembe said that while audit outcomes in Limpopo and Gauteng had declined considerably, the North West had not changed at all. He added that the situation in Gauteng was understandable because apart from the fact that they had started on a higher base compared to other provinces, this province’s poor showing could be blamed on entities as government departments had performed very well.
The bad news was that even though there were several public finance officials who had had been caught with the proverbial hand in the cookie jar and that there were laws to curb this behavior, no criminals had been prosecuted. This was unacceptable and such a situation had to be nipped in the bud.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Lindiwe Sisulu said that the pieces of legislation that covered such criminal activities had many “loopholes” and this had resulted in the attempts at prosecuting such individuals to be a long and drawn out. She added that that was the reason why the government was at great pains to moot new laws to plug these loopholes.