POLITICS
24/05/2018 04:41 SAST | Updated 24/05/2018 12:15 SAST

North West Has Fallen Apart

Supra Mahumapelo leaves behind a broken province.

Aftermath of violent protests against Supra Mahumapelo in Mahikeng. April 20 2018.
MUJAHID SAFODIEN via Getty Images
Aftermath of violent protests against Supra Mahumapelo in Mahikeng. April 20 2018.

While axed North West premier Supra Mahumapelo tried to put a gloss on his legacy in the province as he made his final speech yesterday, the numbers show he presided over a province which has all but fallen apart.

READ MORE: As North West Boss Supra Quits, Is The Premier League Finally Disabled?

Two reports by Auditor-General (AG) Kimi Makwetu, one released yesterday, show a province with its finances and development record in tatters. At municipal-government level, North West is also a shambles.

Not one clean audit in 22 municipalities

The province is now being run by the centre, as administrators from the presidency and the Treasury try to salvage it from Mahumapelo's ruination. Yesterday's report on the state of municipal finances by Makwetu revealed that not a single one of North West's 22 municipalities received a clean audit from the AG.

READ MORE: This Is Why North West Is In Such A Shambles

"The fact that not a single municipality was able to achieve a clean audit outcome again highlights the lack of accountability by municipal management — and other key role players in the province who are responsible for monitoring and assisting local government," said Makwetu in Wednesday's report.

While North West's municipalities racked up more than R4-billion in irregular expenditure, the province also underspent on crucial development projects by almost R200-million.

National Treasury ring-fences certain grants for important projects, and Makwetu's audit teams found that of 56 grant projects audited, half were behind schedule or completed late.

'In 22 cases, the reported achievements did not reflect the actual progress at year-end,' said Makwetu in the report. This suggests that officials lied to the auditors.

The AG reported a tense work environment in North West. "Our audit environment has become more hostile with increased contestation of audit findings, pushbacks, and subtle threats by auditees that they would question the auditors' integrity."

This, she said, was because auditors were discovering the impact of poor spending on service delivery.

The Rustenburg rapid transport system is an example of the projects that are behind schedule: it was billed at R3-billion with a targeted completion of December 2016. By last year, it was still not on track.

Makwetu also reported on fraudulent credit card accounts being opened and a failure to follow up on irregular expenditure, year on year.

Provincial financial reporting equally appalling

At provincial-government level, things were no better. In a report on the Public Finance Management Act in November last year, Makwetu said Mahumapelo's office was a particular problem. "Of specific concern is the audit outcome of the premier's office, which has remained qualified for the last two years with increasing irregular expenditure."

The chart in the graphic below shows the four-year audit outcomes regressing in North West, with qualified audits increasing.

Graphics24

Makwetu reported that the impact on development was palpable: a district hospital and a psychiatric hospital had been placed on hold since 2012, and a new school's construction was delayed for 29 months due to poor performance.

North West oversees 23 entities (development corporations, state-owned enterprises, art centres and the like) — but none managed to achieve a clean audit. These entities are in a parlous state — nearly all of them have liabilities exceeding their assets.

"We remain concerned that the provincial executive leadership did not have a complete picture of all the entities, while the departments responsible for these entities did not monitor them appropriately. This is evident from the number of entities operating without approved budgets, and without reporting quarterly or annually on their performance," the AG's report stated.

Makwetu concluded: "The province's downward spiral will continue, until such time as the pillars of accountability and good governance are put in place."

Now that the province has been put into administration and the premier fired, the downward spiral appears to have hit bottom.

Mahumapelo, for his part, went out still insisting that his "Five Concretes" plans — to build the province by village, town and small dorpie — would have worked, if he hadn't been forced into "early retirement".