By Valencia Talane
Our hero this week has led with integrity and highlighted the sorry state of financial management at municipal level. In his most recent report on local government for the 2011/12 financial year, delivered earlier this week, he revealed that out of 278 municipalities in the country, only nine got clean audits.
Our hero will be stepping down in November after seven years of sterling service. For his commitment to hold leaders accountable, and his outspokenness on how corruption and wasteful expenditure affects the poor, we make the auditor-general, Terence Nombembe, the Corruption Watch hero of the week.
In his most recent report, it was revealed that only three municipalities improved their financial results for 2011/12 to the point of obtaining a clean bill of health, while the rest generally slipped in performance standards. It is important to note that, according to Nombembe, most of the 48 percent of auditees that did better this year, did so with the help of his office, which assisted in correcting mistakes spotted during the audit.
His report highlighted a point he raised earlier in the year that municipalities were failing to provide credible and quality information in their financial records. Praising the only three municipalities and three entities that improved their performance, Nombembe said there was no reason why the rest of the more than 200 local government organisations could not achieve the same.
Clean audit opinions are achieved when the financial statements are unqualified and there are no reported audit findings in respect of either reporting on predetermined objectives or compliance with laws and regulations. “Improved audit results are still within reach, all it takes is an ethical leadership tone driven by commitment and a sense of service to the country,” he said.
“There is a critical need to strengthen the municipal public accounts committees and support the important role they play, as this will further bolster the oversight mechanisms.”
According to the tip-offs Corruption Watch gets from the public, procurement corruption at municipal level is rife. Other corrupt practices in municipalities reported to us are: channelling funds into personal bank accounts, using political influence to ensure certain officials escape prosecution, stealing equipment and supplies, and distributing food parcels and funds to secure votes in local government elections.
The winning formula of the municipalities that improved their performance – all of which are in Western Cape – was that their leadership “led by example and made concerted efforts to resolve audit matters raised in their previous year’s audit reports”, said Nombembe.
“Their results are a testimony that where political and administrative leadership set the right tone and work together to implement and constantly monitor basic internal controls, good governance is achievable”.