'Even in the midst of a crisis, transparency and accountability must not be ignored'

Auditor-general explains real-time audit of KZN, Eastern Cape disaster relief

26 May 2022 - 12:08
By Amanda Khoza
Auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda/Business Day Auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke. File photo.

As KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape begin to reprioritise their budgets to respond to the deadly floods as instructed by the National Treasury, auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke says she is keeping a close eye on them.

“The key programmes we will be focusing on will be within the human settlements, temporary residential units, new houses being built, infrastructure repair and rebuild at schools, hospitals, as well as on water and sanitation infrastructure.

“We will also look at programmes around the railways and roads. We will focus our attention on the water tank services, the procurement of water tanks and distribution thereof. We will also consider the social relief initiatives like food parcels and funeral expenses in terms of how those programmes are being managed.”

Maluleke said this on Wednesday while presenting a real-time disaster audit plan focusing on the two provinces to parliament's ad hoc joint committee on flood disaster relief and recovery. 

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend there was no R1bn made “immediately” available to the two provinces despite promises apparently being made by finance minister Enoch Godongwana last month. Instead, the provinces have been asked to reprioritise their budgets — using money that would be refunded when the National Treasury approved their applications to access disaster grants.

The confusion was clear in remarks made last week by DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Francois Rogers, who told the media “the R1bn is no longer coming”.

On the real-time audit Maluleke said: “Even in the midst of a crisis, transparency and accountability must not be ignored.”

She said similar to what was done in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa asked her office to form part of the oversight mechanism that would ensure that the allocated resources are protected and that those resources are used for the intended purpose.

“There has been a concern by many across society that public funds should be protected and that the response initiatives are not only well designed to the needs but are implemented appropriately.”

The audits will respond to key risks relating to procurement and contract management. She said auditors will extend their work to consider things like value for money, goods and services delivered at the right time, place and quality, as well as whether they reach the intended beneficiaries.

She explained: “A real-time audit is an early audit that aims to detect weaknesses in controls and report on findings in a short space of time.” This is done to ensure accounting officers can take corrective action swiftly to prevent further fraud and wastage.

“They can correct implementation programmes so that they are rolled out as designed so that the benefits reach the intended beneficiaries on time.

“As we did with the Covid-19 audits, we will audit and report our findings in a short space of time. We will provide timely reports to accounting officers, relative executives and share our reports with the executive with co-ordinating responsibility.”

The impact of this will be felt only if all role players of the oversight mechanisms play their part, she said. “A key lesson we learnt from the Covid-19 real-time audit is that success is had when we have responsiveness and action on the part of accounting officers and authority. When there is effective support from the executive and authority and swift oversight that insists on timely corrective action.

“What we also learnt from the Covid-19 real-time audit is the benefit of having an active citizenry, one that plays a constructive role in highlighting problems and advocating for swift action when there are leakages in the system.”

The key aspects of the real-time audit include prevention, detection and reporting, she said, adding: “We’ve issued letters to a number of accounting officers in the different entities in the state that we are auditing and we have highlighted the preventive controls especially in the area of procurement and infrastructure spend.”

Maluleke said the KwaZulu-Natal treasury has undertaken to take pre-award assessments of procurement processes to verify compliance with procurement regulations before the awards are made.

What the AG’s office will do is test the controls and highlight the risks, she said.

“We will be looking at different entities across three government spheres, national, provincial and a local, specifically Eastern Cape and KZN. The Northern Cape and North West have not been scoped in to the real-time audit.

“Where there is expenditure through the province or municipality in those provinces, we will catch that section of the audit at the time of doing the regularity annual audit. They will not be subjected to a real-time audit. We will focus our attention on Eastern Cape and KZN, there being the bulk of the activities.”

She said when she gives her report in August, she will detail how the money has been reprioritised and what has been spent thus far.


Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.