Debate on KZN SCOPA Resolutions
By Dr LPHM Mtshali MPL

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 24 February 2011  

Honourable Speaker 

The outstanding SCOPA hearings with the Departments of Agriculture, Social Development and Public Works were originally scheduled for the end of last year, but had to be postponed, sometimes repeatedly, for a variety of reasons that included insufficient documentation submitted to the committee and inadequate responses by departments to the committee’s previous resolutions.  

It has been said during this debate that these three departments are some of the most troublesome in the entire provincial government when it comes to mismanagement, unauthorised expenditure and allegations of fraud and corruption. The issues the resolutions at hand address go some way towards explaining why this is so. 

We appreciate the resolution that requires the Department of Agriculture to present to SCOPA seven outstanding reports, some of which deal with issues - such as planting projects, supply chain management, office rehabilitation, and events management services – that have long been at the heart of the department’s inability to meet its service delivery targets. 

This is undoubtedly a good start even if some of the most notorious forensic reports, such as the 2006 investigation into mismanagement, fraud and corruption in the department under its former disgraced head Dr Jabulani Mjwara, are not part of this resolution and thus remain off limits to SCOPA and the wider public for the time being.

The resolutions that relate to unauthorised expenditure in the Departments of Agriculture and Social Development are equally important for SCOPA’s future oversight work. Once SCOPA is able to establish the link between criminal activities of those in charge, such as the Accounting Officers and other senior managers, and unauthorised expenditure, it will be in a position to tighten the screws in all departments and entities that incur such expenditure. 

It is equally important from SCOPA’s perspective to establish what action is being taken to recover the misappropriated funds and to put in place systems and processes to ensure that irregular expenditure does not occur in future. This is what the relevant resolution calls for and the response it yields can lay down standardised rules for financial recovery in other departments.

The past unauthorised expenditure on social relief from natural disasters by the Department of Social Development also brings to attention the lack of planning in that department which is a perennial challenge, not least because this department has repeatedly been accused of dressing its blatant electioneering as relief from disasters. 

SCOPA’s concern about spending on disaster relief also includes duplication of responsibilities by other government departments, namely Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Considering that disaster relief is also a function of local government, it is important to establish if there is an inter- and intra-governmental policy that specifies the functions each department and tier of government performs in the event of a disaster. Given the ever increasing occurrence of disasters as a result of climatic changes, it is of utmost importance to estimate the cost of disasters as well as plan into the future to minimise their impact on our communities. 

The unfortunate case of vandalism at Khulani Park – a former seat of the Department of Royal Household in Ulundi – as a result of the department’s relocation to Nongoma has highlighted the plight of many unoccupied state-owned properties that are not being properly secured and maintained,which has resulted in loss of value of these properties.  

In addition to the failure of departments to advise the Department of Public Works when they vacate a property and this department’s failure to ensure that state property is adequately taken care of, these findings show, in no uncertain terms, that the relocation of government ??? y anywhere as long as the new location is not Ulundi has always been a costly political decision. 

In a fiscal environment where this province is struggling to balance its books by way of elaborate cost-cutting measures following the historically highest deficit, it is essential that steps are taken to ensure that provincial assets properly safeguarded and that responsibility for the loss of value due to inadequate security can be properly traced. 

Related to this is SCOPA’s ongoing concern about the accuracy of the register of immoveable assets owned by the provincial government which has, in some instances, resulted in qualified audit opinions, sometimes recurring. Drawing on the recent success of Amafa in improving its asset register, SCOPA is now appealing to all those departments that have not complied with the request from the Department of Works to disclose immoveable assets under their control. 

The remaining batch of resolutions referring to the Department of Public Works deals with scores of ongoing investigations that relate to procurement irregularities, abuse of departmental resources, theft and losses of equipment, maladministration of projects, subsidy fraud and improper sale of housing units. All of these issues have undermined the position of the MEC for Public Works and, far more importantly, contributed to poor service delivery in the department. A speedy resolution of these matters is essential if this trend is to be reversed. 

I thank you.             

Dr Lionel Mtshali
078 302 0929