679 2014/02/12 Democratic Alliance (DA) Presidential candidate Hellen Zille, DA candidate for Gauteng Premier Musi Maimane and Democratic Alliance supporters demonstrate for jobs in Johannesburg CBD.Picture: Nicholas Thabo Tau

Western Cape premier and DA leader Helen Zille has questioned the timing of the release of an audit report into the Western Cape government’s use of consultants, demanding a public explanation.

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s report revealed that the Western Cape government spent R10.3 billion on consultants between 2008 and 2011, and accused it of flouting several tender regulations.

The report also claimed the provincial government did not have proper policies in place on the use of consultants, and was therefore unable to determine whether it received value for money in hiring them.

The Western Cape is the second provincial government to be slated by the auditor-general for the excessive use of consultants. The Sunday Independent recently reported how the Free State provincial government was also criticised for spending of more than R2.1bn on consultants over a three-year period.

According to the auditor-general’s report, the Western Cape had spent more funds than any other provincial government on consultants during the same period.

The provincial health department and the roads and transport department were the specific entities audited by the auditor-general.

The auditor-general scrutinised contracts signed with consultants by the provincial government’s transport and health departments, before and after the DA took control of the Western Cape in 2009.

But Zille has questioned why the report is only being released now when the probe was carried out a long time ago.

She also questioned the auditor-general’s use of the term “consultants”, saying the auditor-general grouped all contractors and service providers under this term, which was open to misinterpretation.

“This audit looks at consultants appointed by provincial governments from 2008 to 2010.

“It is interesting that it would be released just before an election.

“The first draft, in the Western Cape, did not indicate that 97 percent of the amount contracted to consultants occurred under the ANC, before the DA entered government in the province in 2009.

“It is legitimate to question timing when a report is released five years after it was commissioned,” she said.

Makwetu’s spokesman, Africa Boso, said the auditor-general would not respond to Zille and that his responses were in the report. Zille said the contracts in question were valid and had to be seen through despite the DA taking over the provincial government in 2009.

“The focus should be on how much money the ANC spends on consultants, and how much this amount drops when the DA comes into office.

“These were legal contracts. We believe they were unnecessary, but this does not render them illegal,” she said.

In her comments to the auditor-general, she said the concerned departments had been requested to respond on the same report in 2010.

“It is clear that this report is not a true reflection of the Western Cape government’s use of consultants since coming into power in 2009 and we are extremely concerned about the fact that the auditor-general has decided to publish this extremely outdated report now.”

Among the contracts audited were a R80 million contract for event operations management services for the 2010 World Cup, which included the development of a provincial transportation plan.

According to the auditor-general, the consultant appointed used fewer international staff than had been proposed, and the consultant’s work was not being properly monitored.

The auditor-general estimated that the contract amount could have been reduced by about R6.5m, but this was not done as the contract was not being properly monitored.

He concluded that the department received “limited benefit” for the amount it paid to the consultant.

- Sunday Independent