AUDITOR General of South Africa, Terence Nombembe, has told Ndlambe municipal officials to get their paperwork right according to procedures if they were to attain the national target of a clean audit for municipalities by 2014.
With an entourage of around 15 officials, Nombembe visited Ndlambe municipality last Thursday while on a provincial tour of the Eastern Cape.
He arrived more than an hour late so a planned closed meeting with the council was postponed until the AG’s next visit at the end of July. However, his message to Ndlambe was clear: “Get your house in order.”
Following an opening and welcome by mayor Sipho Tandani, commitments of support of the municipality were obtained from municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni and council speaker Vivian Maphaphu, together with representatives of the municipal public accounts committee (MPAC), the audit committee, the South African Local Government Association (Salga), provincial treasury and the department of local government and traditional affairs.
In his presentation the Tandani gave an overview of Ndlambe, highlighting the vision of the municipality as well as highlighting the perennial problems associated with lack of funds.
Nombembe said the problem was one of checks and balances, and that the municipality did not complete the necessary paperwork, and thus forced the AG’s department to carry out comprehensive audits each year, at considerable cost to the municipality.
Seemingly less concerned with what the municipality was doing than that they followed procedure, Nombembe explained what his department wanted to see in the annual audit process.
His message was that, in an open and transparent municipality the right things would, eventually, be done, but the first step was to ensure the administration performed efficiently. He said Ndlambe was wasting money on having teams form the AG’s office carrying out yearly audits when Ndlambe’s own internal audit department should be able to do most of the work themselves.
“The reason I have made this trip is to engage and act, not to talk,” said Nombembe.
“Monthly statements must be the norm, not the exception. The municipal manager must ensure that all transactions are checked and signed-off. This will prove honesty and transparency, and lead to a renewed trust in the municipality.
“We need to have systems that ensure all paperwork is recorded and signed-off, as this adds to the credibility of the administration. We must present credible information.”
Nombembe responded to the mayor’s statement that managing the finances were a “nightmare”.
“You cannot solve these problems on your own, because this is where distrust plays a role,” he said, alluding to perceptions of a lack of transparency.
“You spoke of the many challenges you face. However, we are going to link these challenges with your IDP (Integrated Development Plan), continuous feedback from residents, and your control of the budget,” he said.
Nombembe made a strong case for better use of the internal auditors at Ndlambe, saying they are a “sunk” cost the municipality would be spending anyway.
“They should be used to ensure all procedures are followed and that jobs and projects are complete. If we come down and have to find documents and signatures, this costs you money,” he said.
“If the administration does its job properly you can significantly reduce the cost of the external audit. And those actions will ensure a clean audit next year.”