Public Protector calls on municipal finance officers to be firm

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday implored local government financial officials, risk managers and internal auditors at an indaba in Somerset West outside Cape Town to be firm in advising political leadership on the dos and don’ts of good governance.

The Public Protector also called on political heads in the local sphere of government to take heed of the counsel of finance officials to ensure clean governance, which she said would guarantee sustainable service delivery.
“Chief Financial Officers must have the courage to tell you that you cannot do certain things, that such things are not allowed and that it is in your best interests to not do them. The same applies to what internal audit committees and risk officers tell you; ignore them at your own peril,” the Public Protector said at the fourth Institute of Municipal Finance Officers Risk and Audit Indaba.

Presenting on the correlation between good governance and sustainable service delivery, the Public Protector asked where the finance chief and internal audit of the Ehlanzeni District Municipality in Mpumalanga were, when an amount to the tune of R120 000 was embezzled by, among others, the Municipal Manager.

She told delegates that their role was at the heart of ensuring clean governance because their work was preventative in a sense that it involved early detection of intention to bypass the rules. The Public Protector decried what she termed the “cowboy” approach to governance, which involved not following due process on the basis that “the end justifies the means.”

She said good governance involved good policy-making and oversight, good decision making, overseeing of implementation of policies and sound management and administration. It also involved transparency and accountability and people’s participation in the planning of services. Sustainable service delivery on the other hand, the Public Protector explained, involved uninterrupted and seamless provision of quality services to the people.

She added that service delivery encompassed both the delivery of tangible services and the state’s regulatory responsibility. Though South Africa was a developmental state that was interventionist by nature, it had to ensure that services were delivered in a manner that led to a situation where people relied less on the state, being autonomous in terms of meeting their own basic needs.

The Public Protector noted that it was globally accepted that better governed cities or countries such as those in Scandinavia tended to have excellent and uninterrupted services while scoring higher on human and economic development indices. Bringing it closer to home, she said domestic cities that showed good results in the Auditor General’s findings tended to do well in most aspects of service delivery.

Unpacking some of the issues that cropped up in administrations that were not underlined by good governance practices, the Public Protector listed, among other things, poor workmanship on projects, delayed services and additional expenditure to fix shoddy work that had already been paid for.

She said her office had made certain observations on governance lapses that undermined service delivery. These included human resource capacity deficiencies; leadership and governance deficiencies; systems and policy deficiencies; ethical lapses, including corruption; procurement management and demand management challenges; planning challenges; budgeting management lapses; compliance monitoring omissions; and incentives and disincentives.

For a sustainable service delivery to be realized, the Public Protector said, local government had to strengthen procurement processes and develop systems and policies in line with the Constitution and laws such as the Municipal Finance Management Act. Monitoring the implementation of projects was another key factor to good governance and sustainable service delivery, she said. The Public Protector appealed to authorities to plan properly, manage budgets better, act against wrongdoing, act ethically and denounce corruption.

Issued on behalf of the Public Protector by:

Oupa Segalwe
Manager: Communication
Public Protector SA
Tel: (012) 366 7035
Cell: 072 264 3273

Published Date: 
Wednesday, April 10, 2013