/ 27 October 2009

Cachalia: Provincial ministers must be hands-on with finances

Provincial ministers must take responsibility for the dismal state of financial management in various departments, Gauteng economic development minister Firoz Cachalia said on Tuesday.

”In these circumstances it’s crucial that MECs adopt a hands-on approach … and assume direct political responsibility for financial management in their respective departments,” Cachalia said.

He was speaking at a public accounts committee meeting chaired by Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) chairperson Sipho Makama at the Gauteng legislature.

This was after the Auditor General painted a dismal picture of the state of the departments’ finances last week.

”It is clear that financial management has been deteriorating over the last two years,” Cachalia said.

This could be attributed to a number of factors, he said.

Firstly there was a ”general culture of non-compliance with rules”, and in some cases ”the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act have simply not been complied with”, Cachalia said, adding that the reason for this non-compliance was ”inexplicable” to him.

The minister indicated there was a systematic weakness in the control environment and an absence of leadership in decision-making.

Cachalia’s office had set up a task team comprising of chief financial officers who would be tasked with identifying and responding to the problems emerging from the committee meeting.

The head of the department would soon table a report of responses of each of the accounting officers to the problems highlighted in the Auditor General’s report.

Cachalia, who took office earlier this year, said accounting officers and chief financial officers understood that things would have to change.

”I have made it clear to them that high standards of financial management and compliance with the law are non-negotiable and financial misconduct will be acted on,” he told the committee. — Sapa