Auditor-General asks Mpumalanga to start being serious about financial controls

CRACKING THE WHIP: New Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke says Mpumalanga needs to shape up when it comes to its financial controls. PICTURE BY: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

She said even though the province has showed some improvement but this is a cause for concern as budget statements don’t match with reports of work delivered.

Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke has slammed the Mpumalanga government in her first audit report since taking over country’s top auditing job late last year, revealing that officials are using public money as if they are owning the government.

Maluleke said a culture of not “doing things right” is embedded in Mpumalanga and this is worrying because her office has been making “a consistent call” to the province to take steps and correct what she now calls “deteriorating accountability”.

Of the 16 Mpumalanga departments and public entities that she audited for the 2020 financial year, the Auditor-General found only 3 improved in how they handled their financial affairs although 13 received clean audits with findings.

A “clean audit with findings” refers to the type of an audit outcome that is full of financial statements that lack credibility.

Maluleke said most departments in the province received ‘clean audits with findings’ because of “material adjustments allowed by the audit process”.

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“The province continued to struggle to produce credible reports due to the same failures in the accountability value chain as we had previously highlighted,” said Maluleke in her report.

The provincial legislature and the department of cooperative governance and department of finance are the 3 departments that received clean audits without findings, meaning that their financial statements to Maluleke were satisfying.

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The departments of agriculture, health, sports & culture, economic development, education, human settlement, public works as well as the Mpumalanga Regional Training Trust, the Tourism and Parks Agency and the office of Premier all got clean audits with findings.

The department of safety & security, social development and the Economic Growth Agency are the only 3 that didn’t receive clean audits.

Maluleke said for a number of consecutive years now the departments of cooperative governance, finance, human settlement, safety & security, education, sports & culture, economic development, office of the Premier, Mpumalanga Regional Training Trust, Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks and the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency have not been improving.

Only the provincial legislature, provincial departments of agriculture and health improved.

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Maluleke said the improvement means nothing as Mpumalanga “has a history of producing erratic audit outcomes”. 

“Most departments have been receiving clean audits as a result of material adjustments allowed by the Audit process.

“This is concerning and points to a lack of preventative controls. Most accounting officers and authorities did not keep true to the crucial responsibility of implementing a proper system of internal control,” she said.

She said the other issue that contributed to this is “inadequate monitoring”, finding that the province always fails to deliver infrastructure projects – where some projects were not delivered at the required quality “and in other instances payments were made without proof that work had been performed”.

Maluleke said the lack of control also led “to a deterioration in the financial state of the province”. 

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“In order to change the status quo, the provincial leadership must strengthen the internal control environment. 

“The first step is to ensure that critical positions, such as those of accounting officers and  authorities, are always filled to achieve stability.  

“This will form a basis for the effectiveness of the other levels of management and assurance providers, including internal audit units and audit committees. The oversight committees must monitor progress in this regard and hold the executives accountable where progress is inadequate,” Maluleke said.

(edited by ZK)

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