AG releases report on government’s flood relief funds

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke has released the first special report on government’s flood relief funds in Parliament on Wednesday.

Government intervention came after torrential rains in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Eastern Cape left a trail of destruction that claimed over 350 lives and R50 billion in infrastructure damage.

Shortly after the disaster, government set aside a R1 billion budget for various initiatives.

The AG’s report mainly focused on initiatives in KZN, as audits in the Eastern Cape are still ongoing.

While the AG lauded the significant improvement in the State’s monitoring and audit measures, she found that government’s response to flood relief was slow.

Relief included the provision of mobile classrooms and kitchens to severely damaged schools in KwaZulu-Natal, temporary residential units (TRUs), water tankering services in eThekwini Metro, repairing of damaged government properties, and social relief efforts.

As at 31 July, of the R106 million set aside for the provision of basic relief vouchers and parcels, hot meals and school uniforms, R34 million had been spent.

On repairs to government properties, only R7.9 million had been spent of the allocated R1.4 billion to the Property Management Trading Entity.

The entire R18.8 million assigned for the purchase of mobile units for affected schools had been spent by July.

On housing, the KZN Human Settlements Department had spent R33 million of the apportioned R342 million, mainly for the provision of TRUs for residents displaced until the construction of permanent residences.

In the report, the AG identified delivery failures due to a lack of capacity and inadequate project management.

Maluleke’s office also found that impact assessments did not enable appropriate planning and response. Particularly in the Eastern Cape, little progress has been made.

Additionally, the AG found that preventative controls were not strengthened, despite the increased risk of the override of controls during emergencies.

Red flags in procurement processes and disparity in pricing for similar services were also identified.

Maluleke said: “Even by their own plans, government institutions were not able to effectively and quickly roll out these key initiatives. So we've got to figure out how we build institutional capability so that responsiveness becomes part of the system.”

Good news

On the positive, Maluleke said her team had observed that monitoring and oversight capacity had been established at provincial and national level.

This, she said, would ensure that there was government responsiveness to the disaster.

Despite this, this had not driven the necessary improvements, said the AG.

“While the ecosystem is starting to move in the right direction – certainly from a monitoring and an oversight point of view – what needs to be strengthened is on driving the efficiency of the initiatives that are being rolled out.

“We've identified that there are some good practices that need to be built on going forward. I've talked about the establishment of the oversight committees at different levels of government.”

During this period, National Treasury provided early guidance on the availability of funds, the reporting requirements and the processes for getting the reprioritisation of budgets happening at different levels of government.

This, Maluleke said, is something that could be built on going forward.

Maluleke also commended the KZN Treasury for putting measures in place that identified and halted procurement irregularities.

“Some people feel that it takes too long to get these procurement exercises done, but our view is that you have to recognise that Section 195 of the Constitution says you can't opt out of either efficiency or accountability.

“You still have to have controls at the same time that you have efficiency. So what we have to do is find a way to ensure that all of these things can work together and continue to coexist, so that we meet those constitutional imperatives.”

Maluleke said her office was pleased to see combined assurance approaches applied by deploying internal audits.

In this regard, the AG found that internal audit in KZN is very active in monitoring the roll out of the TRUs. Before payments are made to suppliers, the KZN internal audit physically assesses the units.

The exercise saw the audit unit identify areas where snag lists had not been dealt and where there were quality problems.

"That allows - in real time - the opportunity for government to prevent paying out before a contractor has met his or her obligations and that's quite an important control that can be built on going forward. –