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Another year, and another grim overview of the state of our municipalities, their books and their disregard for the rules of governance and accountability.
Auditor-General Terence Nombembe found some points of light in the 13 clean audits among South Africa’s 343 municipalities, five of them in KwaZulu-Natal.
But the bleak still overshadows the flickers of progress with his finding that key officials in 72 percent of municipalities are incompetent. Contracts for insiders like relatives and friends are still rampant.
Municipal officials are not heeding the auditor-general either, it seems, and unauthorised or irregular expenditure is pretty much par for the course, according to Nombembe. It amounted to more than R11 billion in 2010-11.
Contracts to the value of R3.5bn could not be audited, we’re told, because municipalities had not supplied the necessary information. Most authorities employ consultants where they have people to do the job – so the A-G’s report went on, reflecting heavy going towards healthy books.
Accompanying this cheerless summary were pointers to the faults, such as the lack of repercussions for errant officials.
“At the moment consequences are not there,” Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan agreed. “When the consequences are not there, then a level of impunity begins to develop.”
Hence the creation of a procurement office in the Treasury to oversee tenders. And it looks like there is a move afoot to spur the law enforcement agencies to act against official crime.
Yet again we hear, from government itself, sensible diagnoses and plans to respond. Action, however, has not matched all the talk. We still have thousands of public representatives and officials who are in it for themselves, distracted from their functions by what they can extract from their posts beyond their rightful dues.