Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable Members, dignitaries, visitor’s and Departmental officials – I humbly greet you.
Honourable Speaker, the Committee scheduled hearings with different government departments in order to interact with the reports of the Auditor General which were tabled in the Provincial Legislature and referred to the Committee of Public Accounts for consideration and reporting.
Hon Speaker, the majority of the government departments received either unqualified audit reports, unqualified audit opinions with matters of emphasis for the year ended 31 March 2017, with the exception of the Department of Education that received a qualified audit opinion.
The Department of Education has received the same opinion as in the previous year, reflecting no improvement in its financial performance.
The Department of Education had 5 qualification areas for the year ended 31 March 2017, whilst for the year ended 31 March 2016 they only had 3 qualification areas, indicating a regression on the financials.
Record keeping within the document centre has not improved resulting in the non-submission of information.
The Auditor General’s report has also detected instability at senior level, which is a matter of concern as it impacts on the culture of accountability, monitoring and oversight.
Hon Speaker, with our interactions with the Department of Education it was also clear that the Department of Education wanted to blame the audit process for the audit opinion achieved and tried to divert from key issues that resulted in the qualified audit opinion.
Hon Speaker, it was also alluded to us as a committee that the Department of Education is rendering the Internal Audit Committee useless in not giving them enough time for reporting. Through this action, corruption will never be exposed and it was also reported to us, as a committee, that the Department of Education spent more than R250 million on consultants to improve management, but the utilization of these consultants did not result in the overall improvement of the control environment.
Hon Speaker, the Department of Education has spent more than 60% of their budget for the year ending on 31 March 2017, in the second half of that year, 30% in the last month of the financial year and 13% of the R2,2 billion spent in March, was spent on the last day of March 2017. This is clear fiscal dumping.
Hon Speaker, the Department of Education has weak Risk Management processes in place, resulting in no improvement in the audit outcomes and control environment, the Department of Education has spent a substantive amount of money on internal audits, which only presented one report – completely ineffective.
Recommendations form the Audit Committee is not implemented by the Department of Education. There is a clear lack of involvement of key personnel not attending to these most important Audit Committee meetings.
For the control environment to improve management should take ownership of the audit process – the Audit plan of the Department of Education did not yield the necessary results as recommendations of the Auditor General are flouted, ignored and resulted in the same audit outcomes as in the previous year.
This Department receives the bulk of the Province budget and they should seriously tighten up on the financial and control environment.
Hon Speaker, the Department of Education has budgeted approximately R1, 7 billion for infrastructure. They have spent R1, 7 billion but have only achieved 30% of their performances.
The Department of Education has not achieved their target for infrastructure, though we are aware of limitations such as overcommitting themselves with the infrastructure budget or no value for money.
It will be very interesting, Madam Speaker, if we can be apprised as to how the Department of Education aligns their budget to the infrastructure targets – you can’t spend 100% of your Infrastructure budget, but only achieve 30% of your targets – somehow, somewhere, someone’s maths is not working.
Hon Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is of the opinion that the Department of Education, in order to improve their audit outcomes and to concentrate on the core function of teaching and learning, should seriously consider scaling down on transferring certain activities to other entities of government.
These activities include, but not limited to the following:
- Infrastructural development
- Provision of school nutrition
- School maintenance
There is a possibility that other government entities have the capabilities to deliver on these activities, as in the case with school transport.
Hon Speaker, some members must be wondering why I am only concentrating on the Department of Education, whilst other Departments also received audit opinions from the Auditor General.
Madam Speaker, the Department of Education is the biggest recipient of the Provincial budget and is also the only Department that has received a qualified audit opinion. We all want the Department of Education to improve their audit outcomes because it is the biggest department serving 5444 schools, with almost 2 million learners and providing a meal to + – 1,7 million learners and allowing + – 1,6 million learners access to free education.
Education is the foundation for opportunities and this Department must get their house in order.
Hon Speaker, the Department of Education paid in excess of R20 million for the production of financial statements and yet there are issues raised by the Auditor General relating to their quality, non-adherence to the Standard framework of reporting and unavailability of supporting documentation. What then were these consultants paid for and was value for money realised from the service provided by these consultants, and what plan is there to ensure skills transfer to the internal workforce or will there be a perpetual over-reliance on consultants.
Internal capacity should be built and competent people appointed in order to improve the control environment.
As mentioned, for those wondering why I have only focussed on Education and feel left out, let me refer to two other major Departments influencing millions of lives in our province, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development.
As mentioned, for those wondering why I have only focussed on Education and feel left out, let me mention two other major Departments influencing millions of lives in our province, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development.
The mismanagement of the Department of Health has led to exorbitant contingent liability of R16 billion that is attributed to medico-legal claims. This is unacceptable and an example of a Department falling apart and gasping for air to survive.
The suggestion that a difference in interpretation of an Instruction note from Treasury has led to the Department of Health exposing itself to elements of criminality is a clear sign of the current government’s inability to govern properly. These are characteristics of an amateur government.
The Department of Social Development incurred irregular expenditure of R39, 10 million during the year under review. The Department has been plagued by a lack of monitoring and effective oversight for many years. This cannot be accepted from a Department who is responsible for millions of poverty-stricken people in the Eastern Cape.
For a Department who is responsible for the well-being of the poor, a report stating phrases such as “weak financial controls” and “policies and procedures are not adhered to and not well understood by the departmental officials” is shameful. It might seem as if the MEC has no control and a careless attitude.
In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I have referred to infrastructure projects of the Department of Education where 100% of the budget was depleted with a 30% performance indicator. Hon Speaker, it boggles my mind that for the financial year ended 31 March 2017, there were still 2426 schools with insufficient water, 677 schools with insufficient electricity, 2491 schools with insufficient sanitation, excluding the 810 schools with pit latrines, which are also non-compliant.
That is why, Madam Speaker, I have posed the question with so many infrastructure projects to be taken care of, how then is the Department of Education aligning its budget with infrastructure projects.
The Superintendent General of the Department of Education should answer as to what contributes to the biggest problems about leadership within this Department and how he and the Honourable MEC for Education will address it.
This Department of Education, although broken, can be fixed through sheer determination, appreciation and dedication.
The Democratic Alliance supports the report.