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Need for punitive action against officials

Date Released: Thu, 23 May 2013 16:31 +0200

THE Eastern Cape government has to lay criminal charges against officials implicated in corrupt activities if budget spending is to improve, the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) said yesterday.

The lobby group, based at Rhodes University, was reacting to poor spending by government departments in the last financial year. PSAM director Jay Kruuse said: "Until government takes decisive action to improve its procurement practices and to address systemic corruption, including the laying of criminal charges against those implicated in criminal activity, it will remain business as usual."

He said pre-audit results on budget spending tabled to parliament by provincial and national treasury were disappointing compared to the previous financial year. Kruuse said the "real picture" on spending will only become clearer later this year when the province's financial statements are audited by the Auditor-General (AG).

"The largest and most costly provincial departments - education and health - together with the bulk of municipalities across this province have a woeful track record of spending public money efficiently, effectively and economically.

"While a significant number of these organs of state tend to spend the bulk of public money allocated to them, very few are able to account adequately for their use of such funds (as required by law) - even fewer take meaningful action to recover money stolen.

"This is often because corruption has become the order of the day and leaders in government are either unwilling or unable to address its prevalence." PSAM education researcher Zukiswa Kota said spending patterns in social services departments had been unstable over the years.

She said research revealed spending on funds meant for some of the key conditional grants on housing, health, including the School Nutrition Programme (SNP) and education infrastructure, had not been effective and efficient.

"In relation to under-expenditure on housing conditional grants in particular - it is disconcerting that the department of human settlements is failing to spend the [limited] available funds as this has a detrimental effect on those in need of housing and better services.

"What may appear as positive expenditure trends can also serve to mask severe service delivery failures," Kota said. "Where relevant accounting officers fail to ensure that this occurs, decisive punitive action must be taken by executive authorities.

"Year after year, departments and in particular education and health, fail to heed the recommendations of both the AG and Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). Resolving this complacency is critical," Kota said. PSAM was supportive of Scopa's recommendations to undertake competency assessments of various tiers of management and should be assisted by the executive through the office of Premier Noxolo Kiviet and the Public Service Commission. — msindisif@dispatch.co.za

By: Msindisi Fengu

Source; DAILY DISPATCH (Final Edition)

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