/ 13 June 2023

Auditor general: Government’s response to KwaZulu-Natal flood disaster inadequate

Tsakani Maluleke
Auditor-General, Tsakani Maluleke.

The auditor general‘s report on public relief funds meant for flood-affected people has slammed the government’s response to the disastrous flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape in April 2022. 

Some  461 people died and thousands were displaced, while houses and buildings collapsed and private and public infrastructure was damaged, then-premier Sihle Zikalala said in June last year. This was as a result of four days of incessant rainfall.

On Tuesday, auditor general Tsakani Maluleke told parliament’s ad hoc committee on flood disaster and relief that the government’s overall response — from impact assessment to delivering relief — was too slow compared with planned milestones.

The report focused on repairs to damaged water, sanitation and road infrastructure, road infrastructure and the supply of building material in the two provinces.

“We continued to observe slow response to disaster — from impact assessment to delivery of relief. Compromised control environments, pre-existing system and process deficiencies, lack of capacity, and inadequate intergovernmental coordination were still prevalent,” Maluleke said.

“The findings relate to delays in the spendings of grant funding, which much of the grant had a particular timeframe in which it had to be spent. In which we found that too many municipalities did not spend that money in the given timeframe and had asked for extensions.”

Municipalities failed to respond adequately to the disaster and provide the necessary relief, even when the funds were available.

Maluleke highlighted that delivery failures continued because of ineffective monitoring of contractors.

“In KZN, when we reflected on the spending of the province, we looked at the funds that were made available and saw that there was slow response, lack of disaster readiness, quality of work not monitored and lack of effective oversight and monitoring to ensure timely delivery,” she said.

“As a consequence, you have building materials that are purchased and left exposed and get distracted (sic). You also had instances where roads were damaged and the contractors should have put up signage that would warn drivers of the dangers of driving on those roads, compromising the wellbeing of people.”

The auditor general’s report showed that in KwaZulu-Natal only R251 million (4%) of the R5.8 billion received through grants, loans and reprioritised budgets was spent by 31 May this year — a year after the floods. 

In the Eastern Cape most municipalities did not spend the funds within six months as per the grant conditions, procurement processes were not followed and relief efforts were not coordinated. The provincial disaster management centre had limited impact because of funding and resource constraints

Only R66 million (60%) of the R109.8 million municipal disaster relief grant was spent in the Eastern Cape by 31 May. 

The auditor general’s recommendations include urgent action from national, provincial and municipal governments where delivery was slow or compromised, and strengthening of intergovernmental processes and coordination to avoid failure in the infrastructure rebuilding phase.