eThekwini’s unit heads slammed over R290m ‘irregular expenditure’ write-off

EThekwini MPAC chairperson Thami Xuma at the City's abandoned tar plant. Photo supplied

EThekwini MPAC chairperson Thami Xuma at the City's abandoned tar plant. Photo supplied

Published Aug 17, 2023


Durban — EThekwini Municipality’s public accounts committee (MPAC) chairperson Thami Xuma has warned the heads of the City’s units to stop hiding irregular expenditure reports after the City was forced to write off R290 million in wasteful and unauthorised expenditure.

In a council meeting on Tuesday, the committee raised the issue of the R290m in wasteful expenditure and called for it to be written off because it was irrecoverable. Xuma said the heads of the units “tactically” hid the reports for three years because the debt was not recoverable after this period.

He defended his committee’s decision on the write-off, saying it had no option since the money was irrecoverable.

“It’s not that we just wanted to write off the debt. My committee had no choice but to do that because there was no way the money would be recovered. But I wish to warn the current heads of departments in the City to bring all the unauthorised expenditures to my office so that we act against those responsible.

“The City cannot afford to lose such an amount because of corrupt individuals who do as they please. So, moving forward, we are going to ensure that there is no cent that will be unaccounted for under my leadership and heads of units will take full responsibility,” said Xuma.

He added that the amount dated back to 2009 and those who were responsible had left the City, which made it difficult to hold them accountable. The units where most of the wasteful expenditure occurred were electricity, water, sanitation, roads and stormwater.

The write-off was slammed by the DA, which called on the MPAC to ensure that each report was dealt with firmly within the legislation and that all irregularities are dealt with, as well as ensuring that there was no further occurrence of such irregularities in the future.

DA councillor Shontel de Boer said her party would closely monitor the progress of these investigations because far too often officials were charged but never saw their day in court.

She lamented the lack of consequence management, which she said still topped the inefficiencies of eThekwini Municipality. She said that not only had the auditor-general raised this matter but members raised it at every sitting of the MPAC.

“Unless consequence management is dealt with in this municipality, officials will continue with improper conduct and wasteful expenditure will only increase. We await the next quarterly report of the Financial Misconduct Board, which details the implementation of disciplinary action taken or not taken against these officials and the reasons thereof,” De Boer said.

She said there has also been a concerning regression in the procurement and contract management processes due to deficiencies in internal controls.

“The mandate of the MPAC to ensure oversight over the City’s finances will be seriously ensured by the DA in eThekwini. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that there are proper processes followed and that those who continue to flout the SCM regulations are seriously dealt with.

“We will ensure that consequence management is properly enforced by the city manager and the Financial Misconduct Board. The DA in eThekwini takes all these matters seriously and will continue to put pressure on the heads of departments and deputy city managers to ensure proper measures are in place to avoid further wasteful expenditures occurring in eThekwini,” added De Boer.

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