KZN Unaudited Close Out Reports: Strategy change is needed in order to enforce accountability

25 Nov 2021 in Press Statements

(The following edited Debate was delivered during a Sitting of the KZN Legislature held today, 25 November 2021)

As committees and as legislators we continually talk accountability and that is where it ends. It appears that we are unable to enforce accountability – in many cases within the same Departments and from the very same faceless officials.

The 2020/2021 Unaudited Close Out budget performance clearly highlighted some of these continued challenges. Year in and year out we are dealing with continual contraventions of the PFMA and Treasury regulations. The question then remains, in our oversight role and in committees what are we not getting right?

Allow me to highlight some of these continued contraventions emphasized within the Finance committee report;

Resolution 49/2021: Office of the Premier: Spike in spending in March 2021. Noting that:

There is a notable trend of a spike in expenditure on the last month of the financial year in the Department. In 2018/19 the spike was R50 million above the monthly expenditure trend. In 2019/20 the spike was R40 million above the monthly expenditure trend. In 2020/21 the spike R100 million above the expenditure trend.

The question is – who authorized this?

Resolution 58/2021: Department of Education: Staff debt. Noting that:

The total staff debt was at R610million as at December 2020. The Department has written off 23% of this debt.

The question is – who authorized this?

Resolution 64/2021: Department of Health: Compass Medical Waste dispute. Noting that:

The Department reported in 2019/20 that Compass Medical Waste was suing it for more than R200 million due to the DoH not implementing cost escalations as per contract. In 2019 it was reported that the new medical waste contract is significantly more expensive that the previous one, but that the costs would decrease once the new contractor had established itself.

The question is – who authorised this?

Resolution 68/2021: Transport:  Specifically and exclusively appropriated funding. Noting that:

The Department used a portion of the PTOG allocation (R58 000) and R3.485 million in Transfers and subsidies to: Non-profit institutions in respect of KWANABUCO and SANTACO to offset some of its spending pressure. This is not permissible by the PFMA.

The question is – who authorised this?

Resolution 71/2021: Arts and Culture: Specifically and exclusively appropriated funds. Noting that:

The Department was allocated R300 000 as a specific and exclusive appropriation for the Indian Indentured Labourers Memorial project, which was not spent in full at year-end, showing underspending of R167 000.

The Department submitted an ex post facto request for R133 000 to be shifted to Transfers and subsidies to: Non-profit institutions for the introduction of transfers to various organisations involved in the project. Provincial Treasury did not approve this request.

The question is – who authorised this?

Resolution 72/2021: Arts and Culture: Unauthorised payment of sponsorships. Noting that:

The Department paid sponsorships to Blax Cherie (R98 000), Grandi Tenori (R25 000), Innovation Brand Architects (Pty) Ltd (R96 000) and Shu Shu Enterprises (R80 000). These sponsorships are not part of the Provincial Relief Fund which was reprioritised for support of artists to mitigate the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Provincial Treasury permission to introduce these transfers was not obtained by the Department nor did the Department notify Provincial Treasury about its intention to sponsor these institutions.

The question is – who authorized this?

These are only six resolutions from the hearings, yet the common denominator is that ultimately one person would have to have signed off on these matters. Who are these faceless individuals? If this Legislature is going to enforce accountability then there has to be a change in strategy. Perhaps it’s time to put a name or a face to these contraventions rather than blanket resolutions, which have become tedious and ineffective by not exposing individuals who remain non-compliant and flaunt the PFMA and regulations without impunity.

In terms of section 82, 83, 85 of the PFMA, read in conjunction with section 115 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, we have the power to change this situation. Section 115 of the Constitution gives the KZN Legislature or any of its committee’s the power to summon any person to appear before it to, under oath, give evidence or provide documentation.

The DA believes that this is a solution to the challenge. Nameless officials can no longer be permitted to undermine this legislature and its regulations. Nor can Departments continue to protect such officials. This process will certainly be a deterrent.