Investigate Free State municipalities for crimes – Cope

Cope National Secretary of Communications Dennis Bloem, is joined by a handful of supporters at the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria on Wednesday, 17 April 2019, where he has laid charges against 15 individuals who have been implicated by former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi at the ongoing Zondo Commission Inquiry into State Capture. Picture: ANA

‘Congress of the People is saying it cannot be that for the third consecutive year the audit outcomes regress, and no action is taken against these thieves.’

The Congress of the People (Cope) has called for the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate the ongoing irregular expenditures in Free State municipalities for possible corruption and fraud.

This after the Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu flagged all municipalities for not receiving a clean audit finding. The province was for many years led by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule as premier, who had since the 2019 elections been succeeded by Sisi Ntombela.

In his Local Government Report for the financial year 2018/19, Makwetu reported that the Free State’s irregular expenditure totalled R1.4billion. He said a further R341.6million in irregular expenditure was identified in “audits finalised subsequent to the cut-off date of this report”.

Cope national spokesperson Dennis Bloem described the Local Government Report for the year 2018/2019 presented by Makwetu as “depressing”. Makwetu found that not a single municipality in the Free State achieved a clean audit. “The Free State’s municipalities are characterised by a lack of financial controls and an ongoing culture of a lack of accountability, as well as a tolerance for transgression,” Makwetu said in his presentation.

He said: “Irregular expenditure identified in the previous year was not investigated at 125 municipalities (55%).”

To some in the Free State and elsewhere, the financial situation in the province’s municipalities was not surprising. There are numerous reports of corruption, broken down service delivery and infrastructure, while sewerage spilled in the streets of most rural towns in the province.

Bloem lambasted the outcomes, saying it was disappointing. “Each and every year we must hear the same song of poor financial management, unauthorised expenditure, irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and noncompliance with proper procurement processes.

“The people of the Free State can’t be the victims of greedy thieves who know very well that they can steal as much as they can, because there will be no consequences. Residents of the different municipalities are loyally paying their rates and taxes, but in the majority of towns in the Free State municipal services have collapsed,” Bloem said.

He said roads that were tarred 26 years ago, have turned into gravel roads because of a lack of maintenance. Potholes are a trademark of Free State roads and in the majority of places municipalities fail to supply residents with clean drinking water and municipal services.

“Congress of the People is saying it cannot be that for the third consecutive year the audit outcomes regress, and no action is taken against these thieves. It is totally unacceptable that ten municipalities did not submit financial statements on time.”

“We cannot allow this mass looting to continue, the law enforcement agencies Hawks and NPA must take action. We are demanding that mayors and municipal managers be arrested and take full responsibility for the finances of the residents.”

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