28 May 2012

South Africa: KZN Provincial Govt Plagued By Lack of Managerial Accountability

press release

Not a single accounting officer within the KZN provincial government is facing charges of misconduct for failure to implement the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), despite millions of Rands lost to wasteful expenditure under the watch of individual heads of government departments and public entities, a response to a parliamentary question in the KZN Legislature has revealed.

"Accounting officers are obliged to ensure that all provisions of the PFMA are implemented to safeguard the public purse. If they fail to do so, they must face charges of misconduct. It is inexplicable why no accounting officer has been held to account for the innumerable contraventions of the PFMA in KZN," said Shadow KZN MEC for Finance Roman Liptak who posed the question to KZN Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize.

The Auditor-General's report on the provincial audit outcomes for the 2010/2011 financial year (the latest available for scrutiny) reveals that KZN's 16 government departments and two dozen public entities have collectively incurred R1.4-billion in irregular expenditure and R265-million in unauthorised expenditure, the bulk of which was detected by the Auditor-General rather than the auditees themselves.

"Since not a single accounting officer in these departments or public entities is facing charges of misconduct or negligence, it is obvious that such contraventions of the PFMA as overspending, misspending and waste of the public resources, all of which are on the increase from the previous financial year, are being condoned," said Liptak.

The Premier's response has also revealed that only 36 finalised cases of financial misconduct across the provincial government have been reported to the Public Service Commission as required by law. "Such a modest number of reported cases is further evidence that the government's commitment towards clean and accountable governance in KZN is flagging," said Liptak.

The PFMA, read in conjunction with Treasury Regulations, requires that government departments report finalised financial misconduct cases to the Public Service Commission. In terms of the PFMA, financial misconduct is any material losses through criminal conduct, unauthorised, irregular, and fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The Premier's response has also indicated that no specific directive to remind the accounting officers of their obligations in respect of the PFMA has been issued to them in light of these worrying figures. "There is no sense of urgency about calling those who are responsible to account. This points to a wider breakdown of accountability in the provincial government," said Liptak.

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