Sakeliga takes auditor general to court over concealed municipal reports

Sakeliga accused Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke of concealing crucial information relating to corruption and misconduct in more than 150 municipalities.

Sakeliga’s legal and liaison officer, Tian Alberts, said the organization had taken legal action against the auditor general, forcing him to release undisclosed management reports.

Alberts said the Malulekes had by far only released the summary audit reports “while the advanced management reports were reserved for municipal and other state authorities themselves.”

According to Alberts, the release of performance audit reports would herald a new era in municipal litigation, the accountability of state officials, and the disclosure of how taxes were spent.

“Although the Auditor General has a constitutional obligation to make management reports public, these have never been published,” Alberts said.

“The management reports differ from the summary reports published each year, as they contain detailed information on specific cases of corruption, wasteful spending, management problems, wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money and other irregularities discovered by the audit teams.

“By contrast, the Auditor General’s normal annual major audit reports, which are publicly available, are summary in nature.”

Alberts shared that Sakeliga, a business community fulfilling its constitutional duty to resist state power and reform failing business environments, discovered the existence of the management reports during its municipal failure litigation. in the Northwest.

“In January 2022, Sakeliga requested access, under the Access to Information Promotion Act, to the management reports of 154 struggling municipalities across the country, where there are serious problems of provision of services and financial administration.

“The auditor general rejected Sakeliga’s request. We, therefore, [on Thursday] filed papers with the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria seeking an order requiring the Auditor General to release the management reports to Sakeliga,” he said.

Sakeliga intends to analyze and disseminate these reports to chambers of commerce, civil society organizations and the general public to support them in their efforts to manage state failure and improve local economic independence.

“Because of their detail and scope, management reports could be instrumental in litigation and other interventions by companies and broader civil society to reverse local economic deterioration.

“In the meantime, Sakeliga expresses her gratitude for the painstaking work of the Auditor General who has identified in her annual management reports the degradation, mismanagement and corruption in the municipalities.

“Our position, however, is that the Auditor General’s annual reports offer little value to the public if they are not disclosed.”

Maluleke was granted 15 hearing days to file a notice of objection to the application.

In June, Maluleke published a report on the financial and audit results of municipalities. Although the report, which consists of information on the state of financial soundness and accountability systems, showed an increase from 27 to 41 municipalities having received clean audits without results, it painted a dire picture regarding the financial well-being of municipalities.

The results show incompetence in terms of accountability and consequence management within local government structures.

At the same time, the South African Local Government Association (Salga) has expressed concern about the deterioration in the quality of governance within municipal structures. Salga spokesman Sivuyile Mbambato said at the time that a new approach was needed to enforce accountability and consequence management.

“The Auditor General’s 2020/2021 report on local government paints a bleak picture of the lack of accountability in the management of municipal finances,” Mbambato said.

“This requires a new approach to enforce accountability and consequence management. A carrot and stick approach, where excellence is rewarded while mediocrity and mismanagement are punished, is what is needed to transform local government.

“While Salga is disappointed with the findings of the Auditor General’s report, Salga welcomes the report as it provides key lessons on what works, identifies areas for improvement and municipalities that require serious and urgent intervention.”

Mbambato added that the deteriorating quality of governance and accountability, fueled by a lack of consequence management in municipalities, is a serious concern for Salga.

The municipal watchdog also acknowledged the existence of corruption and collusion in municipal tenders, saying it had asked Maluleke to provide a list of violators so the department could take action against them.

“Municipal elected officials work on the black market [and] do business with the state, not to mention the municipalities in which they are employed. This must stop, this can no longer be tolerated.

Read also: Corruption, collusion at the level of local authorities worries Salga

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Nompilo Zulu

Melissa C. Keyes