Home affairs gets its house in order

For the first time in 15 years, the home affairs department has been given a clean bill of health by auditor general Terence Nombembe.

Home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni attributed this change of fortune to the influence of minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who he said had shown a strong will to fix its ailing finances.

The last time the department achieved an unqualified audit was in 1995, although Apleni pointed out that at that time the Public Finance Management Act had not been in force.

Since then, the department has received back-to-back disclaimers and adverse reports. “This meant the auditor general could not even express an opinion [on the department’s financial status] — he could only say, ‘This is a mess; I can’t even make head or tail of it’,” said Apleni.

Home affairs has also been the subject of persistent adverse reports about inefficiency and corruption. In 2007 the department called in consultants to help it improve service delivery - although Apleni said this process had not placed much emphasis on financial management.

In 2007/08, when the department was “on the brink of collapse”, according to Apleni, the auditor general had issued a disclaimer.

Apleni said when he was appointed director general in 2009, there were no provincial directors of finance. This was rectified in April this year.

The improvement in the department’s performance was clearly visible in 2010, when its accounts were marred by a single qualification relating to capital assets management.

“For the 2012/13 financial year, we’re aiming for a clean audit report. We know it’s not child’s play, but that is the target we’ve set for ourselves.”

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