AG ducks Limpopo controversy in provinces report

In his auditor general’s report on the financial processes of SA’s provinces, a ducking and diving Terence Nombembe has refused to be drawn on the government’s controversial decision to place provincial departments under central administration.

Nombembe on Monday refused to be drawn on the controversial move by national government to place several provincial departments under financial administration.

“It is the prerogative of government to do what they see fit; the minister of finance has explained the logic,” Nombembe told reporters at a press briefing addressing 2010-2011’s national audit outcomes.

In early December the treasury took over the running of several departments in the Limpopo, Free State and Gauteng provincial governments.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan described the departments as having the “potential for overspending”.

The central government assumed control of Limpopo’s finances, as well as the province’s departments of education, transport, health and public works.

In Free State, the departments of finance, policing and transport were put under state control, along with the Gauteng government’s department of health.

At the time, Gordhan said all the departments taken over would be investigated for “corruption and maladministration”.

“We don’t have any reason to agree or disagree with the move,” Nombembe said on Monday.

It has been speculated that the move was politically motivated, as the majority of departments put under administration were in Limpopo, the premier of which is Cassel Mathale—a known ally of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who in turn is one of President Jacob Zuma’s greatest political adversaries.

Since the controversy, several senior ANC members have publically criticised Zuma for allegedly orchestrating the move.

In the beginning of January, Mathale accused Zuma of “punishing innocent service providers” by taking over several of his departments.

On Sunday, ANC treasurer general Matthews Phosa said the government had “stolen” Mathale’s powers in the province.

Nombembe would not elaborate on his office’s tacit support for the move.

“Generally, anything that goes towards strengthening fiscal disciplines and financial controls, we would support. It may be an uncomfortable and controversial step but if it assists in preventing the same problems then so be it,” Nombembe added.

When pressed for an opinion on the financial reasons for placing the provincial departments under central control, Nombembe said it was not his office’s place “to offer their thoughts”.

“We only look at the end of result. Our job is not interfere with management issues but to make sure that financial processes are carried out effectively,” Nombembe added.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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