Mpumalanga an AG’s nightmare under ANC misrule

Omphile Maotwe

Omphile Maotwe

Published Jan 22, 2024


Mpumalanga, which has experienced decades of misrule under the ruling party, is an administrative nightmare for the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA).

Following a dismal report in 2023 from the AG’s office on the financial state of municipalities in the province, it is evident that in most aspects where the province and its municipalities are expected to be improving, they are either retaining the unbearable status quo or regressing where minor progress has been made during previous financial years.

Mpumalanga is a classic case of what transpires when there is blatant disregard for rules and where the state is left to its own devices.

But exactly how much damage has been caused and how does the province of Mpumalanga fare when compared to other provinces across South Africa?

The province, under the guidance of the ANC, has ignored the call to action made by AGSA which is geared at improving accountability and service delivery across all municipalities and government departments. There has been no sense of urgency in addressing and implementing systems that will lead to sustainable financial health, dealing with non-compliance or strengthening procurement systems.

This is why 90% of the municipalities in Mpumalanga are struggling to grasp basic financial disciplines. This should worry any political party that is progressive and people centred because the implications of this epic failure hamper service delivery. Financial mismanagement means that community needs and social demands are not met. This while squandering money.

The intention in Mpumalanga is to bleed its municipalities and the province dry and this is clearly illustrated by the overt use of consultants. Now we must bear in mind that consultants are mainly personnel that are link to the ANC because the objective is to make a select few rich at the expense of the people. How else does one justify that 26% of the budget is directed at paying consultants and instead of this figure decreasing, it’s steadily on the rise.

The reasons mentioned for the use of consultants includes the high vacancies that remain purposely unfilled across the board. Instead of hiring competent individuals to do the work, consultants are used in a bid to siphon funds at all costs. Despite the fact that consultants have proved to be in effective as they do not deliver on the work that they are contracted to do, they are often appointed late yet still receive full remuneration, as indicated in the AGSA report. Consultant costs are sitting at R941 300, close to R1 million.

The financial crisis in Mpumalanga can largely be attributed to poor budgeting practices, ineffective financial management, and lack of sustainable revenue collection strategies, according to the AGSA’s report. There are five municipalities that have reported that they significantly doubt their ability to continue operating. How, when there have been no strides in service delivery?

And to make a situation worse, the AGSA indicates that 10 municipalities have approved unfunded budgets. Yes, ANC pillaging knows no bounds because the approved unfounded budgets require a whopping R9.44 billion that will, unfortunately, neither trickle down to communities nor be directed into much-needed infrastructure projects.

But it is not only budgetary concerns. There is a general poor revenue collection system across the board. Hence Eskom is owed R13.45bn and it takes more than 400 days to pay suppliers. There is no money to work or pay bills yet a budget is approved annually and it goes towards catering for the needs of cadres instead of the people. A disgraceful 70% of the municipalities in Mpumalanga do not have effective revenue collection systems, this despite a heavy reliance on consultants and poor project delivery.

For instance, it was reported that Thaba Chewu Local Municipality overspent on its budget as it spent 104% of the allocated funds. The tragedy is that only 29% of basic services and infrastructure development targets were met. Where did all the money go and who authorised it? This is a large contributing factor to the fact that the province has R3.1bn in unauthorised expenditure, R2.1bn in irregular expenditure and R836.6m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

These are not solely the AG’s nightmares as they are sounding bells that should be raising alarms across the country because this rampant corruption affects lives. Mpumalanga has a water crisis and money that should be spent ensuring that the basic human right of provision and access to water, as enshrined in the constitution, is catered for. Failure to do so, not for lack of funds but because of greed, incompetence and short-sightedness is tantamount to a human rights violation.

Departments and municipalities are not only squandering funds and deliberately underspending where government officials and their associates are unable to benefit unduly. There is gross mismanagement of grant funds. Instead of focusing on infrastructure development, maintenance and creating much-needed employment, grants are misused. How else do we find ourselves in a situation where the AGSA reports that grants are being spent without the work having been done? In places such as Msukaligwa Local Municipality, there are no indicators on the quality of drinking water, which means there can never be an assurance of quality and money being spent appropriately. Underspending also denies people access to drinking water and other essential services that the government should be rendering.

The epic failures should serve as a reminder to South Africans of how we reached a state of being on the brink of collapse. It is not something that just happened but it is a result of an uncaring government that is more vested in creating wealth for a select few while stifling the growth of the communities that it says it has been elected to serve.

Unwillingness to fill vacancies when the country is experiencing an astronomical unemployment rate, with young people being the most vulnerable, is enough to tell people that the ANC has lost the plot and can no longer be trusted to govern. Consultants benefit only politically connected individuals at the expense of multiple families whose lives can instantly change through the employment of one family member.

With the upcoming provincial and national government elections, the people of South Africa are afforded an opportunity to choose how they want to be governed and by whom. They have an opportunity to go through the service delivery failures of provinces such as Mpumalanga and decide for themselves if the subpar performance would result in a pass if they were to be rated and scored.

The truth of the matter is alternatives exist in a progressive organisation such as the EFF who, in its 10 years of existence, has held the government accountable at any given opportunity. But not only that, the progress from opposition party to a party that is part of government in major municipalities demonstrates the makings of a political party that has a plan for the people of South Africa and that is invested in change. In all areas where the EFF is part of the government, significant changes have been made, with hands-on officials who are action driven. From Gauteng to eThekwini, we are demonstrating a repel for mediocrity, and are rendering superior services to the people.

The case of Mpumalanga is an embarrassment to the country and its people. The AGSA will never be taken seriously as long as the ANC remains in charge and that is why South Africans have to make a better decision during the upcoming elections.

Omphile Maotwe is the treasurer general of the EFF.

The Star

Omphile Maotwe