All Free State governmental departments had to appear before the provincial standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) last week.
The main reason was for each department to answer to Scopa on their audit outcomes of the 2012/2013 financial year by the auditor-general. One of the biggest issues coming from these reports was the unauthorised expenditure and overspending of about more than 60% within some of the departments.
Other issues that surfaced during the committee meeting at the legislature concerned the Department of Health. MEC Benny Malakoane says if it was up to him, he would have fired everyone from his department.
Malakoane says he meant it in a figurative way due to all the problems he’s had to face after having joined the department six months ago. Speaking to Courant, Malakoane says all the problems in his department have been there for a long time. Nobody did anything about it. He is now held responsible for mistakes he is not answerable for. Malakoane says the committee’s questions dwelled on previous mistakes as if they were made presently.
“I feel it necessary to give perspective of what we are doing with regard to the findings we have made, most of which were not even found by the auditor-general and which we found ourselves in the first 100 days. That is why those aspects should have been addressed in terms of what we have done since these prevalent problems have been diagnosed by me,” he says.
Another issue that came to light was the R1.6 million overstretched budget for salaries in the Department of Social Development.
Head of the Department Matilda Gasela says they are short of 38 social workers and there are still senior positions that need to be urgently filled.
According to Gasela the positions that have been vacant for the past five years, will be done away with. She emphasised that the department has serious budget constraints and didn’t have enough employees. Gasela mentioned that they are still in a process of sorting out issues of misconduct under employees. She says two officials were suspended in October this year for misuse of funds while some were given written warnings for doing business with the government. Scopa chairperson Neels van Rooyen congratulated the department on receiving a clean audit.
Meanwhile, the department of police, roads and transport has been questioned by the committee on whether steps had been taken against those who did not comply to regulations. The department says it was difficult to press criminal charges against such employees.