Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu wants the province’s departments and municipalities to improve the management of taxpayers’ money - challenging them to score clean audits from the Auditor-General (AG).
Mchunu made this ambition known on Wednesday when he addressed MECs, mayors, top civil servants from the government departments, municipalities and public entities in Durban.
This was during the province’s lekgotla - a mid-term strategic workshop to assess work done by the provincial administration.
“We want all of us to be certain that we want to go into an era where we are number one in clean audits,” he told his audience.
“We should be able to reach a clean audit and make it a norm,” Mchunu said.
In the 2014/15 financial year, the province received only eight clean audit reports.
At the time, it had 15 departments, the legislature and 21 entities, amounting to a total of 37 institutions audited.
A total of 22 municipalities and entities had received a clean bill of health in the same financial year. At that time there were 61 municipalities and additional municipal entities.
Mchunu said the departments and municipalities should move beyond obtaining unqualified audits with matters of emphasis.
“The challenge is to reach a state where the majority of departments and municipalities reach a level where they are unhappy with unqualified, and the rest is clean,” he said.
Speaking to media afterwards, Mchunu said his department, the Office of the Premier (OTP), would play a role in identifying where the problems were in reaching the clean audits.
“We think OTP can’t leave it to departments to reach clean audit status by themselves. We believe, partly, it is our task,” he said. “We must ensure that departments identify the root causes in each of these departments.”
A unit would be formed in the OTP to monitor departments and also supervise them where there were weaknesses.
“If it does not happen, then I will also have to account why it did not. I will be prepared to account for that.”
Mchunu said compliance with financial matters and laws would have to be adhered to. “It leads you to believe that if everyone in the line function within departments play their roles properly, you should have clean audits.”
Mchunu said accountability and consequence were critical to ensure clean audit opinions.
“We say there must be consequences if persons are found wanting on commitment. That is about managing,” he said.
Mchunu’s tough talk that civil servants should face the music if not performing their tasks, was not something new, as his predecessors had made similar remarks, along with MPLs, when they had been before the legislature and its committees.
This had, in many instances, caused the opposition to say they were merely paying lip service to their commitments to deal with poor performance by officials.
“I’m careful not represent other people. I want to represent what I know, what I understand and what I’m about. I will not make reference to the legislature and previous premiers,” he said when the Daily News pressed him to comment on this.
He was adamant that where there were transgressions, the law had to be followed for disciplinary purposes.
“The law is clear who should be disciplined,” Mchunu said, adding that he wanted the lekgotla to come up with a resolution on “consequence management”.
When asked about specific targets he set for departments and municipalities to receive clean audits, he responded: “We said to the AG that when we are audited at the end of this financial year, which ends in March 2017, we want to have to have turned around the Âsituation on clean audits, both for departments of government in the province as well as municipalities.”