To always ensure that there are no funding gaps in government projects, and service delivery needs are met, it is crucial to conduct proper planning which includes the communities who will benefit from those projects. So says Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, who released a comprehensive performance report on the urban renewal programme (URP) of the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements on Wednesday.

The report was released along with two others that focused on the provincial health department’s pharmaceutical sector management as well as the state of South Africa’s water infrastructure and sanitation project.

In the urban renewal projects report, Makwetu pulled information from the Alexandra, Evaton, Bekkersdal and Winterveldt programmes, while citing several common concerns. Vacancies in key areas of the projects was an issue, as the proper segregation of duties was compromised in the process. Furthermore there was a lack of proper systems for transferring knowledge to new staff in the interest of the success of the projects.

“The responsibility for the urban renewal programme changed … during the term,” said Makwetu in the report. An office that was initially tasked with the monitoring of projects was disbanded in 2011, he added, with this responsibility now falling to heads of departments in the regional offices. The inconsistency in how projects were monitored meant that Makwetu’s team could not obtain vital project documentation such as contracts, payment certificates and design-related documents, among others.

“Co-operation agreements between all key stakeholders in the urban renewal space were not obtained in writing, which significantly impacted on the ability of leadership to hold role-players accountable, thus negatively impacting on the achievement of project deliverables.”

Makwetu named the following four themes as being key to the better administration of project:

  • Leadership and oversight.
  • Funding.
  • Project management and operations.
  • Intergovernmental coordination.

“While government strategies and policies were generally well intended and thought through, the more detailed planning and execution hampered the successful implementation of these strategies and policies.”

Proper budgeting is also needed, to avoid over- or under-spending on projects. For instance, even though the Evaton project was projected to cost R3.7-billion, only R260-milllion was allocated. The same case applies with Winterfeldt and Bekkersdal, which were billed at R4.3-billion and R1.3-billion respectively, while neither got as much as half a million.

In all three reports, Makwetu highlighted supply chain management challenges and non-compliance with certain prescripts of the legislation. “An example was the reappointment of a contractor with a value of R21.6-million in Bekkersdal without adherence to National Treasury practice notes.”

Among others, Makwetu recommended that those heading the projects:

  • Re-assess the original business plans to the needs of communities.
  • Improve monitoring of URP at a central point.
  • Improve the communication strategy.
  • Establish a proper document management system.
  • Enhance capacity and skills on project management.
  • Formalise the commitments of, and agreements with, all stakeholders.

• Image from Media Club South Africa