Speech Notes: Vote 12 – Provincial Treasury Annual & Half Year Financial Oversight Reports

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL
Shadow MEC for Finance

Honourable Speaker,
Honourable Premier,
Leaders of Political Parties,
Members of the House
Stealing from South African governmental departments and municipalities has become the easiest way of making a dishonest buck, more often than not without any consequences to the individuals involved.

The now late former Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, last year revealed that South African Municipalities’ irregular expenditure increased to a mind-blowing R32,06 Billion in the 2018/19 financial year.

This was up from an equally shocking R25,2 Billion in the 2017/18 financial year. Eastern Cape municipalities were the biggest culprit in this regard, and contributed an amount of R6,7 Billion to the overall total!

Whilst the Auditor–General, is diligent in exposing the adverse risk of irregular expenditure in government, many politicians (even the honest ones) often have no idea how to curb this rising wave of corruption.

Many a politician, across the political divide, have been outspoken against ever-increasing Irregular Expenditure, but there is usually little to no consequences for senior government officials who have been responsible for these irregularities.

The lack of accountability by senior government officials is perhaps the leading cause of the rampant increase in tender-facilitated corruption and theft in South Africa over the past number of years.

Until senior officials are held accountable and sacked for allowing rampant irregular expenditure, and by implication, the circumvention of supply chain processes in government, grand-scale looting through government tender processes will continue.

In the Eastern Cape, we have failed to curtail instances of irregular expenditure. We continue to worry about fruitless and wasteful expenditure, but we continue to look the other way when it comes to Irregular Expenditure.

Now that South Africa has effectively run out of money, politicians must realise that government officials who are entrusted with public money, must be held to account for their actions. If we fail to do so, there will be less and less money for service delivery.

Perhaps the ruling party will wake up when they feel the wrath of angry voters at the ballot box!

Speaker, against this backdrop I want to ask this house when last has there been any consequences for senior officials in provincial departments that continue to allow supply chain deviations to occur, unabated, year after year.

What use is our recommendations in the annual reports, if those recommendations are not acted upon? Nothing.

These reports are not worth the paper they are written on, Speaker.

What role does Provincial Treasury plays in these matters?

Is it not high time that we give Provincial Treasury some proper teeth to force provincial departments and municipalities alike to adhere to its advices?

Otherwise what exactly are we doing here? This government might as well be a continuation of the Masualle administration!

Speaker, let’s talk local government finances. Where are we with local government in the Eastern Cape?

Half of our municipalities are bankrupt, and the other half are so inept that they cannot deliver services. In the 2018/19 financial year, Eastern Cape Municipalities got the worst audit outcomes in 6 years! Eight of our municipalities got disclaimers and only 15 got unqualified audit opinions!

CoGTA and Provincial Treasury have joint support programmes in place to assist municipalities struggling with audit-related matters, but it is clear that these are not delivering the desired outcomes.

Speaker, why are we not seconding a dedicated official to each of those struggling municipalities so that we can turn the audit fortunes of these struggling municipalities around once and for all? We must have something more to celebrate than the fact that it is Phuza Thursday today.

Continuing our discussion on Municipal Finance, it is truly a disgrace that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality forfeited some R503 million in grant funding under the previous ANC-government. I can see that even the Hon Premier is delighted that the former Leader of the Opposition of this House, Hon Nqaba Bhanga, has gone to clean up the mess in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Speaker, I want to assure the Hon Premier that there will be no further forfeiture of funds in Nelson Mandela Bay. Where the DA and its coalition partners govern, we bring more money into the province-we don’t throw it away.

Speaker, that runaway train called accruals is going to destroy the Department of Health. At nearly R4 Billion, the value of the accruals in Health is now almost 2,5 times the value of all the Department’s assets, as per its Annual Financial Statements. This means Health is bankrupt 2,5 times over!

The Hon Premier has promised to take this matter in hand, but I fear the matter is now beyond his reach!

Again, I must ask, where Provincial Treasury is in all this? Provincial Treasury and my friend the Hon MEC for Finance, who is a prudent man, can make no progress in this matter without the necessary teeth being given to him.

Speaker, the Democratic Alliance supports the Annual Report and the Midyear Report for Provincial Treasury before us today.

It would stand the Premier and his Executive in good stead to ensure that Provincial Treasury receives the necessary support, and associated powers, so as to enable them to address the myriad of financial management problems that both provincial departments and local governments alike are facing.

I thank you.