KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala says the province will intensify its Operation Clean Audit drive, to ensure consequence management and accountability in all departments that incurred irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said on Wednesday he had “declared war” on irregular expenditure in the province, following the report released by the country's auditor-general (AG).

"While some of our provincial government departments have improved in 2018/2019, others have regressed and this means we need to address the underlying causes of audit queries with vigour and without delay," Zikalala said.

AG Kimi Makwetu told Parliament earlier in the day that the province’s irregular expenditure of R12.4 billion was “the highest of all the provinces and more than that of national government”. The previous figure for the province was R9.8 billion.

“It’s closing balance of R41.9 billion is also the highest of all the provinces – this despite the AG’s ongoing recommendations to leadership to take steps to avoid the abuse of supply chain management legislation,” Makwetu said. 

He said that overall, the province's outcomes had remained unchanged, with three auditees improving and three regressing. "There are now five clean audits as opposed to three in the previous year. 

There were recurring trends visible in the province, Makwetu said, but "greater effort is required to trigger stronger outcomes". 

Zikalala said he had “pledged” to act with “determination and speed” following the outcomes, which he called a “mixed bag”.

Makwetu said the province's department of social development and traditional levies and trust account achieved clean audits, while co-operative governance and traditional affairs achieved an unqualified audit with findings.

KZN’s departments of transport, agriculture and health achieved qualified audits with findings. The premier’s office, provincial legislature and public works had all regressed, according to the A-G.

"Our congratulations go to our audit stars but everyone else has their work cut out for themselves. All departments that fell short in 2018/2019 will need to work on detailed audit improvement strategies and report progress on implementation regularly," Zikalala said.

Zikalala said provincial government would intensify its Operation Clean Audit drive, which "ensures" consequence management and accountability in all departments that incurred irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“We will also launch an investigation in order to nip all malpractices that lead to poor audit outcomes in the bud.”

Outa’s KZN manager Tim Tyrrell told African News Agency (ANA) that the AG’s findings on the province “do not come as a surprise”.

“The findings are consistent with the statement released in June by the AG regarding KZN municipalities. We call on the AG to use his new powers as given to his office through the  amendment of the Public Audit Act and take direct action against the offending accounting officers,” Tyrrell said. 

African News Agency (ANA)