Public works department in financial disarray

Financial chaos continues to dog the public works department, according to the Auditor General (AG).

This resulted in AG Terence Nombembe giving the department another disclaimer for the 2011/12 financial year — one of the worst audit opinions possible.

Nombembe said he could not rely on information provided by the department about, among other things, how many properties it owned and leased to sister departments and other state entities, and the accuracy of irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“I was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to satisfy myself as to the completeness of irregular expenditure relating to the current year stated at R171,127,000 (2011: R1,396,000).”

The department’s financial statements indicated there was over R69 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Nombembe said he could not rely on this figure either, as the department did not have a system in place to identify this type of spending.

The lease problems at the department continued.

“I was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence for operating lease expenditure transactions with an estimated value of R48,513,867,” said Nombembe.

Action against department officials accused of wrongdoing was lacking in various instances.

“Investigations have not been conducted into all allegations of financial misconduct committed by officials, as required by treasury regulations.”

As a result of this failure, disciplinary steps were also not taken against officials suspected of such conduct.

On the supply chain management side, the department was faring poorly by contravening treasury regulations and procuring goods and services of a transaction value higher than R500,000.

Nombembe took aim at officials who played a part in awarding relatives, friends, partners or associates lucrative public works contracts

Some of these officials had not been sanctioned for fraud and corruption.

The department’s leadership was criticised for not holding officials accountable for their actions.

“Instability in key leadership positions had a negative impact in providing effective leadership in the department.”

There have been various changes and turnaround plans in the department in the past few years.

Public works has had three ministers at its helm in the past two years following Cabinet reshuffles by President Jacob Zuma. – Sapa