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Johannesburg - Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane is set on a collision course with a provincial accounting body after she commented on departments’ audit reports before they were tabled with the legislature.
This emerged this week when chairman of the Gauteng Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Sipho Makama, said he wrote to Speaker Lindiwe Maseko complaining he had not formally received the province’s annual reports before Mokonyane’s public utterances.
“This is not a banana republic. Surely the law must be respected. We are pushing for those reports to be tabled as per the procedure and requirements contained in the Public Finance Management Act,” he said.
“The statements by the premier confirm the reports are ready. We can’t wait until the end of September.”
Maseko’s office confirmed that Makama requested the Speaker to ask Mokonyane and MECs to table their annual reports earlier than the planned date of September 27.
“The Speaker is currently processing the request and consulting with all stakeholders. A response from the Speaker will be sent to Scopa in due course,” said Maseko’s spokeswoman, Gugu Ndima.
At the beginning of this month, Mokonyane, along with finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe and director-general Margaret-Ann Diedericks, announced that five departments and three provincial entities received clean audits in the 2012/13 financial year.
But this could not be confirmed because the reports have not to date been tabled at the provincial legislature.
Mokonyane also reportedly said the province had reduced unauthorised expenditure from R4.5 billion to R392 million.
But Scopa, the provincial committee responsible for overseeing the provincial government’s financial performance, has still not seen any annual reports from provincial departments and entities – despite the regulations governing these processes.
While Mokonyane had not been hauled before the legislature to account yet, Makama said he had asked Maseko to investigate whether any rules had been broken by the premier, and to make a ruling.
But Ndima said Maseko had “no sight of Mokonyane announcing on annual reports”.
“We are aware that the premier did comment about the audit outcomes after these were published by the auditor-general. But there would be nothing wrong in the premier making public comments about the audit outcomes as the audit report was made public by the auditor-general,” she said.
Makama has not ruled out the possibility of the committee hauling the premier before it, although this would have to be discussed and decided on by all committee members first, he said. “We are quite amazed that she has spoken about the reports, but they have not been tabled with the legislature,” he said.
He said that according to the Public Finance Management Act, by the end of July departments were meant to submit their reports for sign-off by the accounting heads and auditor-general.
After the reports were submitted, if there were queries identified by the auditor-general, they should have been addressed by the end of August, but Mokonyane’s statements appeared to imply that the reports had already been concluded, he said.
Mokonyane’s spokesman, Thebe Mohatle, said in terms of the act, departments had five months to submit their annual report to the relevant oversight body, the legislature.
“Upon submission, the executive has 30 days to table the report formally in the legislature. The date (for tabling) is scheduled for September 6, and we are well within the legislated guidelines,” Mohatle said.
And while the committee was not looking for undue credit, Makama was surprised Mokonyane didn’t see fit to acknowledge the committee’s role in the province’s financial affairs. “It’s as if the committee never did anything. We are not crying for credit, but they need to recognise that it’s not a one-sided effort,” he said.
Fellow Scopa member, DA MPL Paul Willemburg, confirmed the committee’s dissatisfaction with the processes followed by Mokonyane.
“As a member, the issue has been raised. No members have seen the reports. And the premier can say ‘there were so many clean audits’ and they may be ‘unqualified’ but that does not mean they’re squeaky clean,” he said.
He said committee members often found that when department’s presented their financial statements they were not always “correctly” completed.
Parts of the act, which allowed accounting heads to correct their reports, enabled some departments to get unqualified reports when previously they would have been classified as “qualified”.