/ 3 November 2017

Editorial: Shame of billions lost to corruption

Editorial: Shame Of Billions Lost To Corruption

It’s a painful annual ritual. How much money has the state lost in what is called fruitless and wasteful expenditure in this past financial year? Is it better or is it worse? The auditor general, Kimi Makwetu, reported this week that it has gone up. The figure is sitting at R45.6-billion, up 55% since the last audit. And that’s just the irregular spending the auditor general knows about; there are many departments and other state bodies that have not submitted their accounts yet, despite being legally required to do so. If and when they are audited, the figure would likely rise.

This is staggering. South Africa is already suffering from an almost catatonic economy, rising unemployment and a host of serious financial problems — the minister of finance said as much in his mid-term budget review recently. What will he say in response to Makwetu’s evaluation of the condition of state-owned enterprises? They wasted about R2.88-billion, with what Makwetu described as “the main contributors” to this sorry sum being “the Airports Company South Africa‚ the South African Post Office [Sapo] and the South African Broadcasting Corporation [SABC]”.

Sapo and the SABC were, in fact, teetering very close to collapse. Because proper supply-chain procedures were not followed, Sapo spent R719-million irregularly and the SABC spent R687-million. (SAA, which recently had to get another few billions’ worth of guarantees from the government, hadn’t managed to submit its accounts at all by the auditor’s deadline.)

It would be possible to go on for a fairly long time enumerating these misspent millions. But think for a moment about the relatively small amount of R1.2-million — the amount the South African Revenue Service’s deputy head, Jonas Makwakwa, was found to have deposited into his personal account, sometimes in great handfuls of cash. It came from a stokvel or a taxi business, he claimed.

A year later, Makwakwa, after being suspended all this time, is back at work; his boss, Tom Moyane, says a law firm’s report has cleared Makwakwa. No actual explanation for those wads of cash Makwakwa was shoving into the ATM. Do they just disappear if Moyane assures us everything is okay?

Well, no. Apart from the fact that nobody believes Moyane any more, especially after the KPMG debacle, we have the right to know whether that R1.2-million was declared by Makwakwa and his associates. After all, that’s what Sars asks of all taxpayers. And it’s taxpayers’ money that is being misspent to the tune of R45.6-billion. Asking Moyane and Makwakwa to be accountable might make those taxpayers feel a little better.