KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala says the underlying causes of audit queries in the province need to be urgently addressed. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala should prove himself by decisively dealing with the R12.4 billion irregular expenditure in the province, which the auditor general had indicated was the highest of all nine provinces and more than that of national government, the IFP said.

The previous figure for the province was R9.8 billion. 

This was despite the AG’s constant recommendations to leadership to take steps to avoid the abuse of supply chain management legislation, IFP chief whip in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Blessed Gwala said in a statement.

"The premier must lead by example and show how serious he is about making this province functional again. His leadership capabilities are being tested on how well he will do in addressing this issue of irregular expenditure, because this is totally unacceptable," Gwala said.

The IFP expected the premier to act harshly against incompetent heads of department (HoDs) and accounting officers who were "constantly refusing to do their jobs accordingly". Some of these HoDs were being investigated for corruption and other charges, but the premier "seems to be hellbent in protecting them".

"An example is Nokuthula Khanyile, the former HoD of KZN social development, who is currently being investigate by the Hawks, but instead of acting against her, the premier saw it fit to dump her at the Agri-Business Development Agency. Something that clearly indicates that the... premier is compromised and cannot execute his duties diligently."

The IFP urged Zikalala to take steps against departments that incurred irregular expenditure. The province needed good governance to function again. The time for lip service was over. 

"Talking only about changing things around but not implementing good policies and consequence management will not make any difference. Instead we will keep regressing in our financial health as a province," Gwala said.

Zikalala had stated that the provincial government would enforce the Operation Clean Audit drive, which would ensure consequence management and accountability in all departments that incurred irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure. The IFP wanted to see officials in the departments do things differently this current financial year.

"Because officials discard rules and regulations intentionally, as they are fully aware that there will be no consequences against them. This is due to the same government who has for many years allowed officials to moonlight, because it had no appetite of taking drastic measures. Officials did, and still continue to do, as they please. [The] 2019/20 mid-term budget performances indicates that nothing seem to be changing," he said.

The IFP urges the premier to ensure that all departments provide implementable strategies to deal with officials who contravened supply chain management policies and created unauthorised, irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure.

"We cannot allow this wastefulness to continue. The billions already wasted could have gone a long way to deliver much need basic services to the poorest communities in our province.

"The IFP calls for robust implementation of the Public Audit Act no 25 of 2004, as amended by Public Audit Amendment Act 5 of 2018, as this will compel accounting officers to act accordingly. The AG must use his new powers as given to his office and take direct action against the offending accounting officers," Gwala said.

African News Agency