The Department of Public Works is over-spending on salaries whilst failing to deliver on its core mandate by investing in infrastructure and supporting job creation.
It was revealed in a presentation by the Department of Public Works to parliament's Appropriations Committee last week, that the Department spent R17 million more than its allocated budget on salaries in the 2011/12 financial year, while not spending R425 million that was earmarked for capital assets.
The acting Director General (DG), Mandisa Fatyela - Lindie and acting Chief Financial Officer, Sue Mosegomi, also reported that overspending of almost R2 million on Goods and Services was the result of a payment to the Independent Development Trust (IDT) that was not approved by Treasury.
The Department is essentially the asset manager for government and is supposed to support infrastructure expansion and job creation through its Expanded Public Works Programme. Yet, its greatest under-spending was in the investment in physical infrastructure (R425 million below budget) and in the Expanded Public Works Programme - where R354 million of the allocated budget was not spent.
When questioned by the DA on the overspending on salaries whilst the Department maintains very high vacancy levels, the DG argued that this is the result of the many part-time and contract workers that have been employed by the Department. This is not a satisfactory explanation. Even when using part-time and contract workers, the Department has to ensure it stays within its budget for employees' salaries and wages.
I also asked the DG who authorised the irregular payment to the IDT. The answer was that the previous Chief Financial Officer signed for it, but that she has been asked to resign. Therefore, she escapes with impunity and is free to be employed again at another state department or state entity.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi readily admits the disarray in his department and continually promises turnaround. In the Minister's analysis of his department published in the Sunday Independent today, he again admits that "the department's capacity to process tenders, manage the supply chain and project-manage construction and maintenance projects has been severely eroded" and that the "resultant lack of financial controls and mismanagement has provided fertile ground for fraud and corruption".
The Minister appears to understand the cause of the rot in his department, and yet a Chief Financial Officer that presided over a seriously problematic period in the management of the department is not being held to account for her actions.
The DA insists that civil servants must be held accountable for their misdemeanours. Civil servants who misspent public money must also be blacklisted so that they cannot continue obstructing service delivery elsewhere.
I have submitted questions for written reply to Minister Nxesi to ask why no steps have been taken against the previous Chief Financial Officer in his department.
We are fast approaching the one year anniversary of Minister Nxesi's appointment to the Public Works Department. The Minister must start showing us that he has the political will to purge bad officials from the system and that his time in office has strengthened the Department's capacity to deliver on its core mandate.
Anchen Dreyer, Shadow Minister of Public Works