R53m overbilling ‘free for all’

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MOLOKO MOLOTO

moloko.moloto@inl.co.za

R53 million. That is the extent of customer overbilling in the Polokwane council. Auditor-General Terence Nombembe found that in addition to writing off irregular expenditure, council billing had resulted in underbilling of R13m.

The A-G’s latest report paints a chaotic picture of governance and finances at the City of Polokwane.

The report was released officially in a council sitting last Thursday night and shows the municipality has regressed from last year’s qualified audit opinion to being issued with a disclaimer audit opinion, issued when the A-G cannot form, and consequently refuses to present, an opinion on the financial statements.

“Included in revenue from service charges of R781m are consumer accounts that have been incorrectly billed by the municipality, which has resulted in under- and overbilling of R13m and R53m respectively,” he said.

The report indicates that the A-G was unable to obtain sufficient audit evidence from the council’s financial statements, hence the disclaimer.

The audit report paints a picture of a free-for-all mentality in the financially troubled municipality.

Treasury regulations were flouted, resulting in the irregular expenditure of R204m on the awarding of tenders, it said. Some of the contracts were given to municipal officials.

The council continues to make a “significant amount of payments” to individuals who are no longer employed by the municipality.

“Due to the inadequate design of internal controls over the payment to employees, I am unable to quantify the extent of occurrences of such payments and the related impact on the (total) employee cost amounting to R399m,” said Nombembe.

He said the existence of municipal property, plant and equipment worth R43m could not be verified because of incorrect accounting records.

A sum of R43m had been paid for staff leave, but the A-G could not obtain supporting documentation for this.

The council spent R140m on projects that had not been budgeted for, resulting in unauthorised expenditure.

“The financial statements submitted for auditing were not prepared in all material respects in accordance with the requirements of section 122 of the Public finance Management Act,” said Nombembe.

The DA in Limpopo wants the Hawks to investigate the alleged irregularities in the municipality.

Nombembe noted a “leadership vacuum” at strategic positions.

The current city manager, Conny Mametja, was appointed in July last year after the unceremonious departure of Fanisa Lamola in May.

The position of chief financial officer remains vacant after Charles Ledwaba resigned amid an internal probe against him.

Nombembe said the acting finance boss lacked the requisite skills and competencies to manage the finance section.

The municipality now struggles to appoint a person to the chief financial position.

Last week, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela advised executive mayor Freddy Greaver “not to recycle problems” by appointing an official who is being investigated by the Hawks to the position.

Dikeledi Thindisa, chief financial officer in the Limpopo Roads and Transport Department, had been earmarked for the finance position in the municipality.

Madonsela found Thindisa had recommended the “improper and unlawful” awarding of R52m to On-Point Engineering by former department head Ntau Letebele.

City manager Conny Mametja had not responded to questions sent to her, despite earlier having promised to respond. Later, her phone rang unanswered and she did not return text messages.


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