The devastation caused by the floods in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) after days of incessant and unprecedented rainfall has exposed the failure of government to protect communities from not only the impact of climate change, but also of inadequate infrastructure and planning to ensure their safety, having failed to learn from similar floods and events in the past. 

The current crisis draws a link between service delivery failures, mismanagement of resources, and the exposure of communities to the effects of extreme weather conditions, such as those of this past week, the result of long-predicted effects of climate change.

As announcement of relief funds begin to materialise, with national government pledging around R1-billion, and the provincial government earmarking funds to assist the more than 40 000 displaced people in the province, the need to monitor the disbursement of funds is as critical as ever. Various government departments and humanitarian organisations have shared plans about the establishment of funds, also calling on South Africans to contribute to relief efforts through accounts set up for donations, including an account opened by the provincial government for that purpose.

“Experience has clearly shown the vulnerability of our procurement systems to corruption in times of crisis, if one considers the rampant corruption during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Karam Singh, executive director of Corruption Watch. “The immediacy of the situation, and the precarious position of so many KZN residents require fast and efficient use of resources to meet the most basic needs of water, food, shelter. There must be absolute transparency and full disclosure of how these funds are being distributed, ensuring that they reach the communities for whom they are intended,” he added.

Widespread perceptions of corruption in the eThekwini municipality over the past few years have not instilled confidence in the local government structures, or its commitment to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable communities in the city.

“The best way to ensure that funds are correctly allocated and spent is to have systems in place that allow government, oversight bodies and civil society to monitor the allocations and spending,” said Singh.

But for effective monitoring to take place there needs to be transparency in the system by way of publication of the information, he said. “The Auditor-General must be activated to do real time audits of spending, in a potentially effective and appropriate preventative measure that should be used in this instance.”

Lessons must be learned from the PPE debacle and the subsequent publication of Covid-19-related spending, which allowed those monitoring to pick up irregularities such as those that happened with Digital Vibes.

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Phemelo Khaas                 083 763 3472