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The Auditor-General, Thembikile Kimi Makwetu’s report for 2018/19 was once again a great disappointment. As far as the provinces are concerned, the Western Cape was the best, whereas no clean audits for the Free State and a regression for Gauteng were reported.
The role that engineering and engineers play in obtaining clean audits should never be underestimated. One thing about the Western Cape government is that the SCM, legal, finance and politicians allow engineers and engineering to bring their magic to infrastructure development planning, construction and operation and maintenance.
The lesson that national and provincial departments should learn is that if you neglect to appoint appropriately qualified, competent professionally registered engineers and retain them, you do so at your own peril!
Public service should create an enabling environment to attract and retain these practitioners, as well as getting rid of non-technical officials appointed in technical positions.
Empower engineers to bring infrastructure service delivery to the people while assisting in obtaining clean audits.
It would be interesting to ascertain how many of these engineers there are in national and provincial departments that received clean audits!
Hopefully those identified as culprits responsible for the material irregularities discussed in the report, will be prosecuted.
Among its key findings, Makwetu’s report reveals the following:
- Overall, the audit outcomes regressed since 2014-15 with only 80 auditees improving and 91 regressing. Only 100 (26%) of the auditees managed to produce quality financial statements and performance reports and to comply with key legislation, thereby receiving a clean audit. In 2014-15, 106 auditees had clean audits.
- There were serious weaknesses in the financial management of national and provincial government that had not been addressed over the past five years.
- The financial health of auditees continued to deteriorate – with departments in particular struggling to balance their finances.
- Unauthorised expenditure remained high at R1, 365 billion.
- There was an emerging risk of increased litigation and claims against departments. Over a third of the departments had claims against them in excess of 10% of their next year’s budget.
- A total deficit of R62, 06 billion was incurred by the 31% of public entities whose expenditure exceeded their revenue – 90% of the total deficit related to the Road Accident Fund.
- Fruitless and wasteful expenditure continued to rise, with 223 auditees losing R849 million in the current year. Over the five-year period, R4, 16 billion of government expenditure was fruitless and wasteful.
- Irregular expenditure increased to R62, 6 billion from the R51 billion reported last year.
How can an amount in excess of R120 billion be recovered and what infrastructure could have been delivered using that money? The above is a blot on the good governance intentions as advocated by President Cyril Ramaphosa and other like-minded politicians. Please call for the engineers – the unsung heroes of our modern age!