The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] condemns the rise in irregular expenditure by both the national and provincial spheres of government and their entities as revealed in the 2018-19 audit report published by the Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, yesterday.
Overall, the audit outcomes regressed since 2014-15 with only 80 auditees improving and 91 regressing. Worst yet, amongst others the report further damningly reveals that:
· The financial health of auditees continued to deteriorate – with departments in particular struggling to balance their finances.
· Unauthorised expenditure remained high at R1, 365 billion.
· Fruitless and wasteful expenditure continued to rise, with 223 auditees losing R849 million in the current year.
· Over the five-year period, R4, 16 billion of government expenditure was fruitless and wasteful.
It is a cruel irony and indictment on the part of the Treasury that this report catalogues the persistence of poor financial management in government over the past five years, despite the fact that in the 2015 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement it boasted about its December 2013 instruction on cost containment measures relating to consultants, travel and subsistence, entertainment, catering and events. The facts contained in this report are telling us that the Treasury which allocates scarce public financial resources does not care as to how and whether these allocations, which are appropriate through the law, are in fact misdirected and misallocated. While year after year revelations by the AGSA that departments are struggling to balance their finances, failing to curb unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditures – no proactive intervention has been forth coming from the authority that is responsible for such allocations, some of which are actually borrowed funds.
As NEHAWU, we find it extremely unacceptable that instead of putting measures in place to halt this continuing trend, the direct opposite is taking place. In our view, this is the money that should be directed towards addressing service delivery to improve living conditions in our communities and the salaries of public servants who are actually entrusted with the responsibility over such public services. The national union finds it alarming that Treasury continues to be dead silent while government is haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate, whilst all the while it keeps on threatening the livelihoods and living standards of public servants.
As NEHAWU, we expect Treasury to condemn this abuse of public funds and ensure that those responsible are made to account. Treasury has to take full responsibility in ensuring that these resources are well spent for the intended purposes. The deafening silence from Treasury leaves much to be desired and does not inspire confidence that much will be done to put a stop to the mismanagement of public funds.
In the past, Treasury had suggested cutting wages of public servants and freezing posts in order to unburden the fiscus. NEHAWU has been vehemently opposed to the use of workers as scapegoats because of the failures of government to curb all forms of irregular, wasteful, fruitless expenditure and material irregularities. Treasury has gone out of its way to blame government’s reckless spending on public servants who are working hard to earn a living wage and be able to feed their families and clothe their children.
Publishing this report with the theme “Act now on accountability”, NEHAWU echoes the cry of the Auditor-General in his call on political leaders, accounting officers and authorities, as well as oversight structures to “take immediate action to restore government’s accountability to the people of South Africa.” His message is clear and must be internalised in practice by the Treasury and the rest of government that such immediate and decisive action “could be done by acting on the outcomes of the recent audits, dealing effectively with material irregularities that have been identified, and implementing preventative controls to turn the tide of undesirable stewardship over public funds”.
The national union will not enter into any discussion that seeks to take away what workers have gallantly fought for and reverse their gains. In this regard, we will mobilise all our members and society at large for a mother of all fights against the austerity measures by treasury.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha [General Secretary] at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso [Deputy General Secretary] at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba [NEHAWU National Spokesperson] at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org