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Department of public works missing R2.1-billion

Paul Vecchiatto

The Auditor General says the public works department is unable to account for R2.1-billion of goods and capital expenditure during 2010/11.

The department of public works is not able to account for more than R2.1-billion of goods, services and capital expenditure during the 2010/11 financial year, said the Auditor General Terence Nombembe.

In the department’s latest annual report tabled in Parliament on Monday, the Auditor General’s report on the department’s financial statements said that he was unable to satisfy himself as to the occurrence, accuracy and compliance of goods and services amounting to R819.046-million and expenditure for capital assets stated at R1.340-billion.

The Auditor General also said that he could not obtain sufficient evidence as to the obligation, valuation and classification of the operating lease commitments’ of R115-million.

He also pointed out that irregular and wasteful expenditure of more than R16-million understated wasteful expenditure.

The department received an appropriation of R7.365-billion for the 2010/11 financial year compared with R6.049-billion for the year before. In the last financial year it managed to spend 90% of its budget compared with 94% the year before.

In her statement, Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde made no mention of the debacle surrounding the lease of two South African Police Service buildings in Pretoria and Durban amounting to almost R2-billion. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found in her investigation of the leases that Mahlangu-Nkabinde had committed maladministration in authorising the leases at rates far above their market value.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde has since ordered a court application to declare the leases void.

Under-spending
The Auditor General’s report also pointed out that the department had materially underspent the budget on immovable asset management programme to the amount of R235-million and the expanded public works programme (EPWP) to the amount of R500-million.

“In terms of the EPWP, the bulk of the under-expenditure was due to the infrastructure grant to provinces and municipalities not being transferred due to the under-reporting and poor performance by the reporting bodies eligible for the incentive grant,” the Auditor General said.

The EPWP was government’s main job creation project to get as many unemployed people as possible to find paid work in building roads, schools and other public works.

He said that as a consequence, the department did not achieve its objectives of fast-tracking the construction of selected schools and energy-efficient intervention.

The Auditor General also slammed the usefulness of the information supplied for auditing purposes in terms of consistency and measurability.

The Auditor General attacked the leadership within the department accusing the accounting officer—director general Mandla Mabuza—for not exercising oversight responsibility regarding financial performance and procedures to enable and support the understanding and execution of internal objectives, processes and responsibilities.

In September, the minister said criminal charges were likely to be brought against several department officials and others outside the department due to irregularities in awarding tenders within the department.—I-Net Bridge

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