Auditor-General in political fray, delaying Ekhuruleni’s audit report

Nkululeko Dunga is the Gauteng EFF chairperson. Picture: Supplied

Nkululeko Dunga is the Gauteng EFF chairperson. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 27, 2024


By Nkululeko Dunga

The second sentence of Section 188 (3) which reads, “all reports (of the Auditor-General) must be made public” is one of the least referenced clauses of the South African Constitution in as far as it concerns the Auditor-General as a Chapter 9 Institution.

To conclude the article, we will revisit this pivotal sentiment.

It should ordinarily raise a cause for concern possible politicisation of the work of the Auditor-General, wittingly or not, or at least the work of the office.

This is not an easy point to arrive at, but something we must address, however difficult or sensitive it is.

In the recent past, there has been much fanfare about the auditorial procedure of the City of Ekurhuleni financials and not necessarily the audit outcomes.

This frenzy has primarily been centralised around and by the media. We welcome the public interest in the affairs of the City and interest in the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in governance.

This curiosity over the affairs of the City of Ekurhuleni and the EFF in governance correctly leads us in asserting that the EFF is considered a plausible contender in overall governance.

However, it is unfortunate that these public engagements and excitability of the media has resulted public spats embroiling the Auditor General, council members and the residents of Ekurhuleni.

The avoidable events sadly threaten to undermine the attempts of stabilising the City’s finances.

The much purported claims that alerted to our alleged failure to submit financials of the 2022/2023 financial year to the Auditor-General and the insinuation that this might be the case due to corruption in the city was highly irrational. It was misguided and outright opportunistic.

For those who simply misunderstood the audit process, there is an explanation.

The Auditor-General is established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution, as an independent institution.

The Auditor-General is subject only to the Constitution and the law, and must be impartial and exercise their powers to perform their functions without fear, favour, or prejudice.

This is not something that the drafters of the constitution simply inserted for decoration, but these are fundamentals that ought to guide both the Auditor-General and all those entrusted with public office.

As much as the Auditor-General is entitled to reverence, it has the responsibility to ensure that its conduct is of utmost, unmistakable, and decisive one.

This to ensure that the office and the work of the Auditor-General does not become politicised. Furthermore, the Auditor-General should not be utilised as a tool for destabilising political opponents.

The integrity of the Auditor-General and all Chapter 9 institutions provide integrity in the independence and role of a Chapter 9 Institution.

Towards the end of August 2023, the City of Ekurhuleni submitted its financial statements to the Auditor-General as required by the Municipal Finance Management Act of 2003, Section 126.

And for the group, which includes government entities the submission subsequently followed in September 2023. In midst of the South African-media led fracas, this fact was reduced to nothing.

The intentional propaganda geared against the Economic Freedom Fighters in the era of elections, presented the news as though the City of Ekurhuleni failed to submit on time when it did.

In terms of Section 126(3)(b) of the MFMA, the Auditor-General is obligated to submit an audit report on the statements submitted to the accounting officer of the municipality within three months of receipt of the statement.

However, to the dismay of the City of Ekurhuleni, it has been four (4) months post the submission, well over the legislatively stipulated time-frame, and there has been no acceptable explanation for the delay from the Auditor-General.

It is thus an unfortunate reality that the City is presented as responsible for the delay.

The City has continuously raised disputes to the Auditor-General. This isn’t the primary cause for the delay in the response on the part of the Auditor General.

The Auditor-General audit dispute resolution policy adopted on the November 1, 2022 exists to facilitate the resolution of audit disputes, material irregularity disputes, and all other disputes related to allegations in line with the Public Audit Act 25 of 2004.

The City of Ekurhuleni is thus well within its rights to raise disputes. This so long as it is done within the policy framework to which we subscribed to along the process.

And yet, four months later, a month above stipulated legislative procedure, the Auditor-General has failed to provide a sufficient explanation in this regard.

To cause more injury, the dispute process resulted in the City being absolved. The City was eventually absolved because the 14 issues that we objected to and raised in line with the dispute process were resolved favourably.

The City followed the prescribed process. Our experience gracefully taught us to be vigilant of audit findings.

This because on many occasions, the findings were incorrect, the procedure was not followed or the political leaders did not pay attention in order to object when necessary.

And true to journalistic negligence, this aspect was not analysed and probed in uproar against the City of Ekurhuleni. Instead, there were endless and unsubstantiated allegations presented in public relations efforts and press releases that were harmful to the principle of accountability and responsibility in governance.

It is for this reason we believe that the posture of the Auditor-General is being politicised.

There seems to be a general struggle with accepting that the City’s finances under the EFF leadership are in order with sound financial oversight and intact systems to ensure taxpayer’s monies is used for maximal service delivery.

By failing to submit the report, the Auditor-General has refused us and the City to account to the people of Ekurhuleni, engage the report and hold responsible departments accountable under our political oversight.

The failure of the Auditor-General to submit the report timeously as stipulated and legislated, delayed us the opportunity to display the ethos of good governance. Furthermore, the delay by the Auditor-General stunted the Mayor’s ability to table the annual report in Council. This is tantamount to political sabotage.

There are more incompetent municipal councils and governed by equally incompetent administrators who fail to submit financial statements to the Auditor-General.

They are not being paraded on television and mainstream media with racist undertones and passive aggressive symbolism. The City of Tshwane led by the Democratic Alliance failed to submit an annual financial statement for three months, and there was no uproar.

This despite lacking capacity and relying on consultants to prepare their financial statements—thereby spending the highest amount in the country on these services—there has been no public outcry.

As guided by the EFF Founding Manifesto, we are confident that we are serving the residents of Ekurhuleni with integrity and prowess. We are guided by a non-negotiable cardinal pillar which demands of us, “open, accountable, corrupt-free government and society without fear of victimisation by state agencies”.

We have no intention of concealing information from the residents of Ekurhuleni. Those simpletons and delinquent political parties who left the metro in a mess steer far from the foundations of truth by failing to assert that much of the current audit is the affairs over which they presided.

They did not give themselves enough time to thoroughly understand the process.

We have made numerous pleas with the Auditor-General to avoid being embroiled in the politicisation of such an important public service.

This for the sake of the residents of Ekurhuleni, since we have assumed governance responsibility as the EFF, we have made strides in rebuilding the City’s finances, reduced outstanding debts, and have paid more service providers and creditors than in any other recent period.

The sooner we receive the report from the Auditor-General, the sooner it will be public knowledge as prescribed by the Constitution.

We are invested in continuing with the task of clean governance for the People’s Municipality.

* Nkululeko Dunga is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Gauteng Chairperson and the City of Ekurhuleni Member of Mayoral Committee (MMC) responsible for finance.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.