Mark Steele, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Scopa
The report presented today demonstrates the wide-ranging nature of the Scopa hearings held on the annual reports of the provincial departments and entities for the financial year 2010/11. The main resolutions are those of a transversal nature which will have an impact on all the provincial departments. The importance of these resolutions cannot be under-estimated and should be supported by all in this House.
Some resolutions will take longer than others to see positive results. An area of particular concern would be the glaring deficiencies identified by the Auditor-General relating to IT security. Provincial departments have a shocking record on non-compliance with ensuring that only appropriate officials have access to data entries and to controlling access code usage. Scopa will be monitoring the radical improvements to IT security that have been promised by Departments.
The amount of irregular expenditure identified by the AG has ballooned since previous years and now stands at over R1.2 billion. Much of this will be condoned after proper investigation but the issue we have to raise in this House is that this amount is just what the Department has identified and the AG has confirmed. The real figure might be much larger because of the fact that sampling limitations always have to be factored into the AG’s findings.
Technical irregularities are to a large extent true to non-compliance with the PFMA and Treasury regulations, especially Regulation 16 relating to Supply Chain Management (SCM) procedures. As Scopa we need to increase the pressure on Accounting Officers and Executive Authorities to ensure that SCM compliance is dealt with with the seriousness it deserves and those officials who do not declare their or their family’s business interests are subjected to appropriate disciplinary actions. Accounting Officers in particular have clear responsibilities to ensure compliance with the PFMA and they cannot simply condone officials responsible for SCM, who in turn ignore the requirements to get proper tendering procedures in place. The abuse of emergency purchase provisions to evade proper tendering needs to be treated with the suspicion it deserves and properly investigated by the provincialTreasury in every case.
Part of our problem with non-compliance would be dealt with by adopting the example of the Western Cape and prohibiting provincial officials from doing business with government. This legislation has been under consideration by the KZN private members Bill’s committee but has been ruled as inappropriate by our own legal advisers because it may violate the Constitutional Court ruling on the restriction of provincial powers from regulating financial matters following the Limpopo appeal. The point of this opinion is that only national legislation can regulate state officials, be they employed in provincial or national departments. So the question is – what are we as a legislature doing to put pressure on our national ministers to bring amendments before the National Assembly that will achieve exactly this objective? As far as I know all of Scopa are united in seeking this prohibition but nothing will happen without this House speaking with one voice when it comes to motivating this issue to the national parliament.
Scopa relies extensively on the staff that support its work. The provincial treasury and the Integrity Unit play a key role in investigating and preventing financial irregularities. We also have the expert opinions of the AG’s office to rely on when conducting hearings and formulating resolutions. I wish to pay tribute to our former committee officer Sherella Engelbrecht who has been promoted to section coordinator within the Legislature. Her dedication and expertise were much appreciated by all who serve on Scopa and we welcome her replacement to our ranks. I commend the report to the House.