South Africa


Audits in North West reflect ‘a worsening culture of (un)accountability in the province’

Audits in North West reflect ‘a worsening culture of (un)accountability in the province’
South Africa's auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke. (Photos: Flickr / GCIS) | iStock)

Not a single municipality in North West is financially stable. Questions are being raised on whether the province’s municipalities will be able to continue operating as they do not have enough to cover their expenditure and owe more than they have.

Despite year-on-year improvements, the audit outcomes of North West (NW) municipalities have remained largely stagnant over the last five years. None of the 22 municipalities in the province received a clean audit in the Auditor-General’s latest outcomes.


According to Auditor-General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke: “Municipalities in NW have … focused on negative trends, with only three municipalities having evidenced improvements … a worsening culture of accountability in the province over the past five years. Every municipality in the province had transgressions regarding compliance with finance management.”

North West district municipalities 


In particular, the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, which covers Ditsobotla, Mahikeng, Ramotshere Moiloa, Ratlou and Tswaing local municipalities, received an adverse audit with findings from the Auditor-General. This means the financial statements were misrepresented, misstated and did not accurately reflect the municipality’s financial performance and health.

Three material irregularities were issued against the district municipality’s management for failed water supply and sewage projects that have led to a continued lack of clean and drinkable water.

According to the AG’s report, no action appeared to have been taken to repair the water and sewage works, which were not functional because of poor management, inadequate security and equipment not repaired or maintained.

“This resulted in raw sewage overflowing from manholes before reaching the plant due to blocked pipes. The wastewater received at the plant was discharged into the nearby wetlands and river without being treated first. This state of affairs was unchanged from previous site visits. Other plants in the district are in a similar state of disrepair,” the audit report said.

At the presidential imbizo held in Mahikeng in March, residents of the district municipality decried the slow service delivery, water problems, bad roads and unemployment. However, corruption and mismanagement were their top concerns.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “The pathology of a corrupt province

Last year, the Auditor-General recommended remedial action for the district municipality. She warned that if the recommendation was not acted on, North West may become the first province to be issued a certificate of debt against its top management.

Disclaimers of opinions

At least nine municipalities in North West received disclaimers of opinion: Greater Taung, Kgetlengrivier, Madibeng, Mamusa, Naledi, Ratlou, Ditsobotla, Ramotshere Moiloa and Maquassi Hills. A disclaimer is the worst audit opinion, where, because there were insufficient disclosures, the AG was unable to form an opinion on the credibility of the statements.

Improved local and district municipalities 

Out of the 22 North West municipalities, Dr Ruth S Mompati District Municipality, Lekwa-Teemane Local Municipality and Rustenburg Local Municipality were the only municipalities that moved from disclaimers of opinion.

Outstanding audits 

Seven local municipalities and two district municipalities’ fates remain unknown as audits are outstanding due to the late submission of financial reports.

The AG said the quality of the province’s financial reports had declined and submissions for auditing by the legislated date had decreased from 100% in 2016/17 to only 45% in 2020/21.

North West municipalities in dire straits


The municipalities of Matlosana, Mahikeng, Maquassi Hills, Tswaing, Mamusa, Naledi, Kgetlengrivier, Moses Kotane and Rustenburg have been flagged as municipalities with ongoing concerns over a period of three to five years. Mahikeng, Tswaing, Naledi and Kgetlengrivier were put under administration after 30 June 2021.

Root causes of poor audit outcomes

The AG stated that the poor audit outcomes for the province were mainly attributable to three factors:

  1. Leadership instability at political and administrative levels;
  2. Municipalities’ slow response to the AG’s recommendations, particularly in respect of municipal leadership and strengthening internal controls; and
  3. Lack of consequence management in respect of non-compliance with legislation.

Maluleke further stated that these factors had contributed to the financial quagmire and operational collapse in the province.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Our municipalities are in a state of disaster; we have one last chance to fix them

North West’s financial woes

Maluleke said many municipalities in North West were in a dire financial position multiple times in previous administrations and the problems had been carried forward into the current financial year. She said every municipality in the province had transgressions regarding compliance with finance management.

The province had racked up irregular expenditure of R28.7-billion, with unauthorised spending amounting to 42% of all procurement in the province’s municipalities.

“Municipalities’ financial health was dire… Most municipalities could not pay for critical supplies, such as Eskom and water boards. These financially distressed municipalities depended on equitable share allocations, most of which went towards paying salaries,” Maluleke said.

Despite their financial difficulties, the municipalities spent R238-million on financial reporting consultants, with the total spent on such services since 2016/17 at R989-million. However, the AG said, the quality of financial reports had decreased.

Maluleke said her office had urged the province’s political leadership and oversight structures to hold municipal managers and officials accountable for poor audit outcomes and to implement consequences promptly where required.

Daily Maverick has been unpacking the AG’s report. Find some of the articles here:


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    How do municipal employees, who cannot account for the money that is missing, keep their jobs? In the private business world, you would be investigated, removed and charged with theft.
    When it comes to public money virtually nothing happens, the individuals remain employed and carry on stealing.

    • David Mark says:

      Probably because the ANC government is a mafia. The mafia doesn’t “disappear” you if you steal from the public. They only “disappear” you if you steal from the mafia or turn informant for the police.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options