Honourable Speaker, Honourable Madam Premier, MEC’s, Honourable MPL’s, officials and guests

The reading of the Annual & Financial Report for the last financial year as well as the findings, make for interesting reading.

The DA applauds you, Madam MEC, on your commitment to job creation within the Department. The efforts of your Department in employing 144 road rangers, your increased extended public works programme (EPWP) and your household contractors initiative need to be lauded.

However, Honourable Speaker, the report reads like some horror story from the Wild West Cowboy days.

In the Public Finance Management Act No1 of 1999 under chapter 7 titled “Executive Authorities” section 63 titled “ Financial Responsibilities of executive authorities” sub paragraph (1) (a) it states that “ Executive authorities of departments must perform their statutory functions within the limits of the funds authorised for the relevant vote”.

This has not been done in several instances in this report and as such staff responsible for financial mismanagement in the Department should be sacked forthwith.

Honourable Speaker, this is a radical proposal.

However, Speaker, throughout this Plenary we have witnessed how many departments have had challenges with regards to financial mismanagement and fruitless expenditure.

It is now time for action and less talking!

If we do not take action against officials and the culture of maladministration this Department will continue to be faced with irregular financial management issues.

Are we, as a Legislature, too scared to act against officials?

It would seem so.

The amounts of irregular and fruitless expenditure, unauthorised expenditure, interest and penalty payments and huge legal claims against the department are horrendous.

Honourable Speaker, with a department budget of R 2, 8 billion during the last financial year, a staggering 5% of the budget has been squandered or mismanaged by the department.

If we add a further R71, 5 million to the unreconciled projects as stated in the Auditor General report on the annual performance of the department for the last financial year, and then this figure rises to 8% of the total annual for the budget.

Speaker, this is a conservative amount based on a few large figures taken from examples in the report.

The Auditor General has for a second consecutive year given this department a qualified audit.

Speaker, there are many areas in the report and findings where budget has been mismanaged and I shall highlight a few examples.

Honourable Speaker, with reference to the Public Finance Management Act, Act no 1 of 1998 chapter 5 part 2 section 38 titled “General Responsibilities of accounting officers” subsection 38c and quote:
” An accounting officer must take effective and appropriate steps to prevent unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure and losses resulting from criminal conduct”

Firstly Speaker, the Auditor General highlights in his findings in the report an amount of R120 million spent on irregular expenditure.

Secondly Honourable Speaker, the Auditor General gives the department a qualified audit based on a finding of R71, 5 million for unreconciled projects.

Furthermore Speaker, the Auditor General states in the next sentence of the report that the amounts were incorrectly classified as payments for goods and services when in fact they were capital project expenditure.

Thirdly Honourable Speaker, the department was penalised by Fleet Africa for late payment of accounts. Information suggests that in excess of R1 million penalty was applied when a seven day time limit as agreed to in the contract was not properly adhered to. The payments were being effected up to 30 days.

This is fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Fourthly, Speaker, the cherry of them all is an amount of R 227,000 spent to print 500 glossy copies of the Annual report. Speaker, this calculates to
R455-00 per book.

Honourable Speaker, the appalling media publicity regarding departmental secretaries who celebrated a “ Secretary’s day” in which it was stated expenditure to the tune of R 325,000 consisting of luxurious accommodation, gifts and the like had been spent on this frivolous occasion.

This amount was also not allocated in the budget.

Speaker this whole affair is despicable and heads must roll in the department.

Colleagues, this pitiful saga does not end here.

A further R5 million of public money earmarked for Research Study for Animal Drawn Transportation has not been accounted for. Where is this money?

Speaker, the Department also has a legal claim pending against it for several millions from a contractor. This claim was instituted as a result of variation orders to the contract being granted illegally.

In addition, the person who signed the contract was a junior official apparently not authorised to sign such contracts.

Who are these officials involved in these matters?

Has disciplinary and criminal action been taken against them? If not then the public need to know why this is not being done?

Speaker, this whole affair is shameful and the department and indeed this legislature should be holding our heads down in shame by witnessing such disgraceful fiduciary mismanagement of the highest order!

Why did this happen?

Honourable Speaker there are more “ phoefies” in the department’s report.

It will be noted from the report about a government garage upgraded to the tune of R12 million in the Metro. We hear this garage will now be used for 2010 parking and it was not the mandate of Province but of the contractor – yet Honourable Speaker, Province spent the money to erect the garage.

The suspicions surrounding the new Phakisa Fleet Management contract is now being investigated by the Auditor General, while interns are being employed when there is no budget to employ them.

The Mayibuye Bus company over spent by R9 000 on furniture.

Honourable MEC, the DA wants you to succeed with your plan to be the best Department in the Legislature. Madam, Honourable MEC, you can achieve this goal but only if you are prepared to take radical action against errant officials.

Speaker, the DA will be using several means at our disposal to effect improvements in the department.

The DA will be asking questions and will not let up until clear answers are provided as to what improvements are in place, the consequences to employees as a result of this mess and we will explore other avenues to ensure such a financial mess does not occur again.

1) Employees must be “fit for purpose” – this means able, qualified, capable employees employed on merit and who can do the work irrespective of party political persuasion – like the DA is doing in Cape Town and the Western Cape.

2) There must be on going public engagement on how such monies are spent in a transparent manner as mandated by the PFMA.

The DA accepts the report with reservations.