IN TOUCH| Grim municipal audit result: Lumping burden on electorate to fix things is unfair

The auditor general (AG), Tsakani Maluleke, has released the 2019/20 audit outcomes of municipalities – it made grim reading. R26 billion of irregular expenditure. R5.5 billion given to 22 municipalities could not be accounted for – it simply evaporated, it seems.

In our very own Chris Hani District Municipality it seems there was a feeding frenzy – of R1.043bn in equitable share and conditional grants they received, they could not give an adequate explanation on what they did with a whopping R1billion. In total, they spent R66m on the finance division, but curiously they still went out to hire consultants costing R24m for compiling financial statements. The AG had this to say about those financials that cost R24 million to compile: “Essentially those financials are completely unreliable,” said Maluleke.

Every time things like this are revealed many people unleash a tirade and berate the voters for the choices they made in electing the ANC. They tell people it is their chance to remove these people as, by voting for them, they are encouraging this unbridled pillaging by government institutions run by the ANC… and so on and so on.

When people complain about service delivery issues, the same retort is thrown their way. We would be told that ‘you get the government you deserve”. They would tell the people that all is in their hands to change the situation and vote out the ANC and things would change for the better. This, while it may sound like a logical thing to do, take steps to fix things, why is it left to the poor electorate who only have one chance in every five years to cast their votes? Why is the burden to fix things lumped on to them, who may or may not even share the same sentiment? Why should it be left to the electorate to right the ship when there are countless structures within each party in charge, in the legislative framework and most importantly, in the law enforcement agencies? In every municipality there are councillors, a municipal manager, finance department officials and the chief financial officer.

On top of these there are internal audit committees who must oversee the overall financial performance of the municipality and make sure that the financials being prepared by the municipality tick all the boxes before they are even ready to be submitted to the auditor general at the end of the financial year. Then there is another layer of accountability, the political leadership of the party in the majority. Then you have the office of the Cogta MEC and all other mechanisms in that office. The last one is treasury who is responsible for overseeing the whole provincial fiscus.

Are these layers of governance not the ones we should be scrutinising more closely? Are we not letting them off the hook by dumping all the responsibility to improve things on the once-in-five-years process of elections? This, to me, is a cop- out and a clumsy one at that. The election process is a very last step and a very general one which cannot fix the day-to-day issues we see in all these municipalities.

The government institutions and law enforcement agencies must do their work. The political party leadership should be blamed for all these shenanigans in the municipality as they, ultimately, deployed these people who clearly cannot run even a spaza shop…apologies to the spaza shop owners. It cannot be left to us, the electorate, to fix this, it just can’t!