MEC’s spin can’t change the facts

Gauteng Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe presents the 2013/2014 Gauteng provincial budget, 05 February 2013, at Gauteng legislature, Johannesburg. Picture: Ayi Leshabane

Despite a brave attempt by Gauteng finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe on Friday to celebrate the province’s financial performance, not much has changed.

“We (Gauteng Treasury) achieved a clean audit report for 2012/13. In addition, strong leadership and oversight in financial management resulted in the achievement of eight clean audits and 23 unqualified audit reports,” Nkomfe told the provincial legislature on Friday.

In March this year the Gauteng government got a severe tongue-lashing from Auditor-General Terence Nombembe on the state of its finances for the 2011/12 financial year. That year seven auditees received clean audits compared to eight last year. Another 25 auditees received unqualified audits in 2011/12 versus 23 last year. In 2011/12 two auditees received qualified audits. Nkomfe did not announce the number of qualified audits received in 2012/13.

In June, Nombembe released his “General report on the audit outcomes of local government Gauteng 2011-12”, stating: “These outcomes show a regression from previous years, with the exception of seven public entities that achieved clean audits because the leadership at these entities consistently monitored the monthly financial disciplines, such as reconciliations, through clearly defined processes.”

On Friday, Nkomfe said interventions in the department of health had achieved a qualified audit opinion with far fewer findings. “The department has not overspent its budget for the first time in years. The appointment of an administrator ensured we focused on issues still requiring attention to build on these gains.”

The administrator, PricewaterhouseCoopers, was paid R10 million to guide departments.

“We budgeted for this expenditure over two years,” Nkomfe said. “The Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital, for example, has a budget of R5 billion, so staff there need to be guided on how, where, and what to budget for. This is where the administrator is of assistance.

“The spending on consultants is a challenge we all have … I’ve found also in my interactions with municipalities that their systems cannot tell you clearly what is happening. We need to sort

that out. ”

Nkomfe said he wanted to see less dependence on consultants. “Next time there is an issue, we should be able to use our own staff. This speaks to recruitment. If we recruit properly, the right people for the job, we won’t need to rely on consultants.”

Nkomfe added that in the last financial year, the province’s total budget was R74.7 billion. “By the end of the financial year, the province had spent 99% of this budget. It was the first time that such a spending rate had been reached by the province.”

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