Cape Town - Parliament is demanding answers from local government on the R25billion in irregular expenditure in the wake of the auditor-general’s report, which found that only 18 out of the country’s 257 municipalities managed to obtain clean audits.
The chairperson of the standing committee on finance, Joe Maswanganyi, told National Treasury officials it could not be business as usual in municipalities when billions were mismanaged.
His comments came after Treasury also said on Thursday it wanted municipalities to come and account directly to Parliament on irregular expenditure.
Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu last week released a report on the financial performance of municipalities.
The damning report found that R25bn had been incurred in irregular expenditure.
This came on the day that the South African Municipal Workers’ Union said 30 municipalities were broke and had not paid workers.
Maswanganyi said the municipalities were not improving in their financial performance and there must be answers for that.
“I know that the minister is doing something on this. But where the money goes to there must be accountability. There is a report of the auditor-general and the situation is not changing. Municipalities are getting worse daily,” said Maswanganyi.
Jan Hattingh, the acting deputy director-general for intergovernmental relations at the National Treasury, told the committee they were as disappointed with the financial performance of municipalities.
Hattingh said it was time that municipalities were held to account for the use of funds.
He said they would want to see municipalities come to Parliament to account like other departments and state-owned entities on their financial expenditure, adding they were doing a lot of work to improve the financial performance of municipalities.
Part of the work Treasury is doing is improving the monitoring mechanism in local government.
“What we have learnt from this experience is that in order to have your audit outcomes improved, you need to focus upfront,” said Hattingh.
The intention is to prevent the recurrence of issues like irregular expenditure.
“We come from a regime where irregular expenditure was not disclosed.
“The numbers, according to the AG, decreased from R29bn to R25bn. However, this is still high. There is progress, but it’s not significant,” said Hattingh.
He said having municipalities coming to Parliament to account for irregular expenditure would help in reining them in.
Hattingh also said they would deal with the unfunded budgets of municipalities, noting they had 113 municipalities whose budgets were not funded. The National Treasury would compile a report on this.