Clean audits for Ugu District a reason to celebrate

Members of the audit committee, senior political leaders and Auditor-General managers at a meeting after the Auditor-General tabled its Management Letter last month.

Ugu District Municipality’s Shared Services Audit Committee is delighted to announce that Ray Nkonyeni, Umzumbe and Umuziwabantu Municipalities and Ugu South Coast Tourism have all received unqualified (clean) audits

Umdoni Local Municipality and Ugu South Coast Development Agency received unqualified audits but with findings on material matters.

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“This district has, over the past few years, had very good audit outcomes relative to other municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal and in a South African context,” said audit committee chairman, Paul Preston..

Four clean audits concerning the Auditor-General’s formal outcomes meant that, geographically, the adjoining three local municipalities were ‘clean audit territory’.

This validated the appointment of able municipal and senior managers and competent, independent internal auditors in the employ of the municipalities, who worked with an informed and experienced audit committee. The legislation was very complicated and compliances were difficult to maintain. The Auditor-General set a high standard and had become more demanding in successive years, he said. Relationships with the Auditor-General were cordial, but formal and professional.

The newly revamped Uvongo fishing pier’s repairs had to be budgeted for and then the tender went out. The process was governed by council and financial oversight. Ray Nkonyeni Municipality repaired it to ensure it didn’t become dangerous, abandoned or neglected.

“These clean audits are objective verification of the integrity of the local municipal management and accountability evident in our area. They are evidence of a renewed pride, awareness and sense of responsibility changing the whole of southern KwaZulu-Natal for the better. There are new clinics and repaired roads. There is access to clean water in rural areas. Improvements at the beaches have occurred. Dezzi’s popular racetrack is an example of the municipalities and Ugu South Coast Tourism creating an enabling environment to improve tourism, leading to real job creation. High levels of financial accountability take place at council and portfolio meetings,” said Mr Preston.

He believed councillors were more informed and were moving away from party politics to a more inclusive, beneficial service delivery approach.

Mr Preston pointed out that an unqualified audit in no way meant a municipality was perfect.

“Difficulties and frustrations with services will not suddenly stop. The municipal manager has the unenviable task of weighing the competing interests of politicians, ratepayers and poor people. The money received from the Equitable Share is never enough and all municipalities have huge shortfalls on unpaid property rates,” he said.

That was why ratepayers who withheld rates did everyone a disservice. The Supreme Court of Appeal had found that withholding rates for any reason was unlawful.

“Short payment on rates retards service delivery and the operational budgets of the municipalities.”

The Auditor-General considered the materiality of the compliances or non-compliances with the municipalities’ duties. Fault could therefore exist even if there was a clean audit. For this reason, a clean audit did not mean there would be no potholes or that the normal day to day frustrations would cease.

“Systematic problems and failings are still there, but managers are striving to deal with them. Repairs and maintenance have to be done within tight budgets. For example, the Uvongo fishing pier’s repairs had to be budgeted for and then the tender went out. The process was governed by council and financial oversight. The point is that it was done by the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, so it didn’t become dangerous, abandoned or neglected,” he explained.

Importantly, a clean audit meant there was a high level of fiscal responsibility and legal accountability within the municipality and a constantly improving knowledge of what was required to strive for high standards.

“The legislation is so complex and there is so much of it. The municipal managers who achieved clean audits have in common their high levels of knowledge of legislation, finance and how to deal with budgets and arcane categories of expenditure.”

Municipalities with adverse findings would have to attend to ‘corrective action’ and the audit committee would follow up so identified problems could not be neglected.

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Mr Preston stressed we were all better off for clean audits and the sense of pride it brought people working within the municipal context. Clean audits gave motivation for municipalities to continue to maintain and strive for better standards, he said.

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  AUTHOR
Judi Davis
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