‘Poor management’: Just two of 27 Limpopo municipalities receive clean audits, AG calls on leaders to ‘take charge’
Despite seeing a ‘notable improvement’ in Limpopo municipal audit outcomes in 2020/21, the Auditor-General has found in her latest report that only two municipalities received clean audits. There is uncertainty over the ability of six municipalities to continue operating.
Serious problems continue to plague Limpopo councils, with audit outcomes either not improving or regressing at many municipalities in the province, the Auditor-General found in her office’s 2021/22 local government audit.
Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke once again pointed her finger at the leadership – mayors, councillors, municipal managers and provincial leadership – who “all need to take charge and develop the huge potential of Limpopo”.
The AG’s office released the local government audit outcomes on 31 June. Read her report here.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Local government litany of woe — municipal decay and its dire consequences for service delivery
In 2021/22, Capricorn District Municipality improved to a clean audit opinion, while Waterberg District Municipality sustained its clean audit for the second consecutive year.
Of the 27 municipalities in the province, Waterberg was the only one to receive a clean bill of health in the previous reporting period.
“Capricorn and Waterberg district municipalities are proof that where internal control systems are implemented and there is stability at management level, a clean audit outcome is within reach, and should inspire other municipalities to strive to attain this goal,” read the report.
Bela-Bela Local Municipality upgraded from a disclaimed audit opinion to a qualified opinion with findings, as a result of “enhanced document management controls and intervention by the provincial treasury and cooperative governance department”, read the report.
Of the 27 municipalities, only Mopani District Municipality received a disclaimed audit opinion in 2021/22. The municipality has received two successive disclaimer audit reports.
Polokwane and Greater Giyani local municipalities improved from a qualified to an unqualified audit opinion with findings.
Four municipalities (Musina, Lepelle Nkumpi, Fetakgomo Tubatse and Ephraim Mogale) regressed from an unqualified audit opinion with findings to a qualified opinion “because they did not adequately monitor and review their internal controls to ensure that these were operating effectively”.
According to the AG’s report, the financial health of municipalities in the province remains under pressure, with the following six municipalities disclosing uncertainty about their ability to continue operating in the foreseeable future:
- Mopani District Municipality
- Modimolle-Mookgophong Local Municipality
- Thabazimbi Local Municipality
- Greater Letaba Local Municipality
- Bela-Bela Local Municipality
- Musina Local Municipality
The 2021 local government elections produced two hung councils in Limpopo: Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong local municipalities. Of the six councils with uncertainty over their ability to continue operating, Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong are led by coalitions, while the remaining four are ANC-run.
Mopani, Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong local municipalities have been in a vulnerable financial state for the past five years, owing to poor budgetary and financial management disciplines, according to the AG report.
Fruitless and wasteful expenditure
“Unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure remained high, increasing the risk that funds intended for service delivery might be misused,” according to the report.
Among the findings on irregular expenditure, the most common were related to non-compliance with legislation on procurement and contract management.
In 2021/22, irregular expenditure in the province totalled R1.68-billion – 6% of its provincial budget of R28-billion. In contrast, irregular expenditure amounted to R1.8-billion in 2020/21.
The five municipalities that contributed most to the R1.68-billion in irregular expenditure were Mopani and Vhembe district municipalities and Polokwane, Mogalawena and Maruleng local municipalities.
Read more in Daily Maverick on the AG’s municipal audit outcomes:
- Auditor-General slams Northern Cape municipalities’ ‘inability to manage their resources’
- Cape Town and Prince Albert pave the way with clean audits but problems persist in Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Kannaland
- How the best-run municipality in SA gets the numbers right
In her report, the AG also noted that the “delays in consequence management due to slow or no investigations into irregular expenditure” were a concern. This has led to an irregular expenditure closing balance of R7.11-billion.
Poor service delivery
Shoddy service delivery experienced by the province’s residents is most clear, the AG said, in the concerning state of municipal infrastructure and water provision.
Municipalities in the province spend a combined R606.14-million on repairs and maintenance to infrastructure assets. This represents only 1.8% of the value of total infrastructure assets and is far below the National Treasury norm of 8%.
In the previous reporting period, Maluleke flagged the delays in water projects including upgrading the Vondo water treatment works and constructing the Phiphidi reservoir in the Vhembe District as areas of concern.
In her latest report, the AG said Vhembe District Municipality failed to fully address her office’s findings and recommendations from the previous year, even after it had engaged with municipal leadership.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Water and wheelbarrows: Crisis strikes in Limpopo after taps run dry despite billions spent on projects
“In Mopani District Municipality, the Giyani bulk water project is still incomplete due to inadequate intergovernmental coordination between the municipality and the Department of Water and Sanitation. As a result, residents of Greater Giyani and the surrounding areas are still not receiving water services,” said Maluleke.
Additionally, at Mogalakwena Local Municipality, the AG’s office could not obtain evidence that payments to water tanker service providers were for water delivered to communities, resulting in a likely financial loss of R11.36-million.
The AG has notified the municipal manager of a material irregularity in this regard. DM