Rising cases of corruption worry auditor-general

INVESTIGATIONS into corruption and financial mismanagement involving provincial government departments are piling up.

Provincial departments throughout the country face a collective 1,640 investigations as a result of irregular activity, particularly in supply-chain management - a division through which contracts and tenders are awarded to national and provincial departments.

Auditor-General Terence Nombembe this week revealed a shocking number of probes into these departments, hinting that corruption might be spiralling out of control.

Leading the pack is KwaZulu-Natal, which is sitting with about 1,103 investigations for the year ending March 2011.

The province is under investigation for 710 incidents of fraud, 138 incidents involving supply-chain management and 255 other incidents of financial misconduct.

The auditor-general's report notes that "the extent of investigations commissioned suggests a control environment where fraud and financial misconduct are not prevented".

President Jacob Zuma's home province is listed in the report as one of the places with high rates of unauthorised expenditure.

The KwaZulu-Natal department of health reportedly underspent its budget by R1.4-billion, and that was because of "several lengthy tender appeals and delays on construction ..."

The two provinces that follow after KZN are Eastern Cape with 250 cases and Western Cape with 154. North West is the lowest with eight cases.

Another shocking aspect of the report is about the departments of Education, Health, Human Settlements, Public Works and Social Development - which account for 85% of provincial governments' annual spending. They were responsible for incurring R16.3-billion of the R20-billion in unauthorised, irregular as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The R20-billion squandered by the government in the year ending March 2011, was an increase from R16-billion the year before.

The auditor-general's results have not gone down well with labour unions.

Nehawu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said: "For a country that is struggling to pay its workers decent wages and failing to provide basic necessities to its citizens, this is scandalous and not acceptable.

"South Africans deserve better than this and their patience has already run out."

Individual provincial results showed that KwaZulu-Natal had the most departments receiving financially unqualified audits with 23, followed by Gauteng with 14 and Eastern Cape 11.

However, there was some progress as 31 departments retained clean audits while another 15 managed to receive clean audits.

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