Speech by the Acting Premier of the Northern Cape Province, Ms Grizelda Cjiekella, on the occasion of the visit of the Auditor-General of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Terence Nombembe, at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre
24 Oct 2012Members of the Executive Council of the Northern Cape Provincial Government
Members of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature
The Auditor-General of the RSA, Mr TN Nombembe
Acting Provincial Auditor General, Thandeka Zondi
The Director General of the Northern Cape Provincial Government, Adv Justice Bekebeke
The Community of the Northern Cape
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Auditor-General of the Republic of South Africa is the supreme audit institution of our country and has a constitutional mandate to strengthen and consolidate our democracy by enabling oversight and accountability in the public sector through auditing, thereby engendering public confidence of both the institution and our democracy.
It is also correct to state that the institution of the Auditor-General of South Africa was established by way of Chapter 9 of the Constitution, together with ten other agencies and commissions in what we can term as institutions supporting our democracy.
It is regrettable that arising from a briefing by the Provincial Auditor-General to the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, the findings and challenges contained therein found their way, and rather prematurely so, into the public domain.
Indeed Mr Nombembe we remain committed as the government of the Northern Cape Province to subject ourselves to the scrutiny of your honourable office and to be held to account before the masses of our people, whom we occupy the positions that we do on their behalf and in their name.
We therefore trust that all of us would thus respect the calling and dictates of the work we do and not lend ourselves to questionable practices even if we represent the people of this province from opposite sides.
We are of the considered opinion that your office will continue with the important and necessary work in order restore public confidence in government, especially where such has been eroded to the unfortunate levels that we have sadly and regrettably witnessed in some parts of our province.
We therefore have no reason to belief that the findings of your office on the work or otherwise of government would not be released for public consumption in a fair and balanced manner, notwithstanding what some in this house and elsewhere may choose to do with such findings.
The entire collective of the provincial government takes full responsibility for audit findings that could frankly and generally be categorized as less than satisfactory.
Ladies and gentlemen, while the situation is indeed undesirable there is a glimmer of hope and some cause for optimism.
The Department of Education is a good example where it cleared all previous problematic qualification issues but received a qualified audit as a result of challenges encountered in another department with regard to immovable assets.
The grim determination that set these outcomes in motion, however insignificant in some selected quarters, make us certain that, step by step, come the next audit, we will indeed witness marked improvement. This sir remains an acid test that we are determined to pass; failure can not be an option.
On the subject of irregular expenditure, examples of this so-called irregularity related to the appointment of travel agents, deviation from Supply Chain Management procedures, etc. It is also important to note that this expenditure formed part of the audit samples and was audited previously.
The Auditor-General was satisfied that it was regular, but in the latest audit this was considered as being irregular. On this point, it would be fair to state that the Auditor-General should have set matters in the correct context in the general audit report.
Moreover, the so-called irregular expenditure was presented by the opposition parties incorrectly to the public as the perception was created that funds were misappropriated.
The fact of the matter, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that the said funds were expended on service delivery imperatives but concerns were raised by the Auditor-General regarding supply chain management processes.
It should also be noted that during the implementation of reforms to the Supply Chain Management procedure, certain transgressions did occur.
In essence, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in the process of introducing drastic measures to turn the situation around in order that we achieve better audit outcomes in the future. Some of these are as follows:
Ladies and Gentlemen, you can rest assured that the next audit will be much better.
- Accounting Officers will be held personally responsible if there is no improvement in audit outcomes.
- Critical vacancies in areas such as Supply Chain Management will be filled with the context of available resources.
- The risk of IT fraud that resulted in the regression of Legislature and Agriculture departments will be mitigated by the implementation of a system that will restrict unauthorised access.
- The strengthened internal audit unit will communicate their findings to the Accounting Officers on time. Departments will implement corrective actions.
- CFO will develop a strategy/tool to address the high number of misstatements on disclosure notes. Progress will be reported at every second HOD Forum meeting.
- Deadlines on action plans will be re-structured in such a way that progress can be confirmed by Provincial Treasury and internal audit. The action plans will also relate to the public entities of the affected departments.
- Emanating from an EXCO meeting held 13 June 2012, a decision was adopted that Provincial Treasury should lead a Joint Financial Management Team consisting of Senior Officials from Provincial Treasury, the Department of Health and from the Office of the Premier in order to assist the Department of Health in facilitating the implementation of its Financial Recovery Plan.
We will address all issues raised by the Auditor General, and if need be, we are willing to set up other structures that will be tasked towards improving audit outcomes in the future.
It is worth noting that earlier this year in one of our numerous interactions in this regard, I called on all Colleagues in government to honestly engage the reports and recommendations from this important institution and use them to improve our own performances.
We do this Sir because we are committed to the cause of our people; we are committed to the cause of our nation unlike what is portrayed about us in some media editorials wherein we are labelled ‘Leaders with deaf ears’.
Mr Nombembe, no, you are not an ignored prophet as they christened you in the same article, no, do not rage and weep as they would have you do.
We have ears, we have listened and indeed we have heard and heeded your call and the plight of our people!
My gratefully concluding words are especially directed to Cope for calling on our MEC for Finance and Economic Development and Tourism, Honourable John Block to ‘ lead the way’.
Indeed MEC Block led the way when he implored us to “be open to constructive criticism – from whatever source – and take it on board; learning and adding what is working – and most importantly changing course when it is in the interest of our government and our people to do so”.
We remain mindful that nobody has a monopoly of either vision or wisdom and we will take honest criticism in good faith.
We will continue to work with the office of the Auditor-General and all other relevant institutions, and together, fashion out the appropriate policies that will ensure that we overcome the many challenges that we continue to be confronted with, as we relentlessly aim and work to improve the quality of life of all our people.
Admittedly, this can only be achieved through diligence and hard work; through co-operation and through honest and sincere reflections.
Operation Clean Audit is an achievable objective.
I thank you.
Issued by: Northern Cape Office of the Premier
24 Oct 2012
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