No bonuses in failing KZN Transport Department

Jonathan Erasmus, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - The provincial Department of Transport, once deemed financially stable, has dipped to the depths of financial “incompetence”, MPLs on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) said on Wednesday.

Labelled in strong terms as an “embarrassment” and “corrupt”, transport officials were slapped with a moratorium on receiving their performance bonuses until the department was steered back into the clear.

The department was before Scopa and being interrogated on its 2014/15 annual report, and findings made by the KZN Auditor-General (AG).

MPLs tore into the department for its change in course from a once financially viable and sound department to one that had dipped to the depths of financial “incompetence”.

It received a qualified audit (a negative finding) because it could not quantify just how much of its roughly R6 billion spend on infrastructure and services was deemed irregular expenditure.

The department could also not provide an accurate account of what had been spent on its “immovable assets”, including roads and other infrastructure.

The declared irregular expenditure stood at R11.9 million, while the department was also reprimanded for an amount of R1.5 billion it had failed to pay suppliers.

While Transport MEC Willies Mchunu was not present, the department’s HoD, Sibusiso Gumbi, said it was “not the results” they had hoped for, but he emphasised their openness in declaring everything, faults included.

“What you are seeing is transparency to make sure the information we provide is what is in our possession. With the manner in which the department is currently structured, there are areas that need to be improved so that we can deal fundamentally with some of the issues [raised by this house],” said Gumbi.

His CFO, Wayne Evans, confirmed there were a number of findings against supply chain management, including the failure to obtain three quotes for services and deviations from the tender process, as well as contracts being awarded to employees.

“The AG identified from a sample that there were problems with our supply chain management and required us to go through all our transactions,” said Evans.

He said they had developed new guidelines, updated their procedures manual and sent a circular to all staff to rectify these problems.

But legislature officials were scathing of their actions, calling for “leadership” and consequences against officials found to be complicit in what many believed to be a fraudulent tender process.

The IFP’s Lionel Mtshali said the results of the audit were a “clear indication that there is a problem”.

“The Scopa briefing documents say there has been a significant breakdown in controls, but they don’t break overnight. The perception is that the department is in shambles.”

Acting Scopa chairperson Sipho Nkosi said: “You are an embarrassment at the moment. Heads must roll.”

ANC MPL Makhosini Nkosi said any transaction involved more than one person. “As government we are accused of being corrupt. Unfortunately it is us politicians that are accused, yet here I would dare to say the failure to get three quotations points to corruption.”

DA MPL Mark Steele was the first but not only MPL to call for the managers’ bonuses to be withheld.

“It is an appalling audit. The CFO has said that they are developing guidelines, but how is it that year after year you had a clean audit?”

The Witness