Only 8% of mismanaged finances recovered in Gauteng

Only 8% of the R67 million lost through financial misconduct for the 2021/2022 financial year in the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has been recovered . This information was supplied by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to a meeting on the Gauteng Stading Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in the Gauteng Legislature recently.

Only four Gauteng Departments were able to report on finalised cases, leaving SCOPA members assuming that cases in other departments are still ongoing.

Departments allow officials who committed financial misconduct to resign without pursuing criminal charges, as required by the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.

The PSC also reported that the majority of cases occurred at lower salary levels, and these involved the theft of small items such as sugar or basic medical disposables. On a senior management level, although fewer cases are reported, these cases have a disproportionately larger value.

The Departments of e-Government and Education are the only two departments implicated in the mismanagement of finances. Furthermore, the Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation and the Department of Economic Development failed to submit their reports on the mismanagement of finances in their departments.

The fact that millions of rands have been mismanaged is a clear indication that the GPG does not have sufficient control measures in place to stop this from happening. The uneven handing down of consequence management suggests that ANC party dynamics are at play and that services to the people of Gauteng are not the priority.

A DA government will start by ensuring that all the regulations put in place to ensure that mismanagement of finances does not occur are adhered to. Where an official is found to be flouting these regulations, disciplinary action will be taken immediately, and where applicable, a criminal case will be opened and the money recovered.

The dysfunctional Gauteng Liquor Board is failing the industry in the province

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is currently dealing with numerous complaints of poor service delivery from the Gauteng Liquor Board (GLB). On the 22nd of February, we attended a workshop at the GLB with industry members to see for ourselves. Unfortunately, the Chief Director of the GLB was not present, reinforcing our earlier impression that a total lack of leadership and work ethic has taken hold at the GLB.

Liquor consultants expressed numerous frustrations that painted a picture of yet another government entity that is not at all interested in being customer focused. In addition, it is almost impossible to access the offices of the GLB and speak to an actual human official.

One of the negative consequences of this behaviour is that liquor traders often incur additional costs by appointing specialist legal counsel to help them navigate the complex and often hostile process of obtaining a liquor license. This bureaucratic harassment forced traders into an impossible set of choices to either face long and expensive delays in getting an application approved, pay a bribe to a corrupt official, or trade illegally.

The GLB spoke of a Query Management Centre (QMC) that has been activated to speed up applications. However, the DA is concerned that a reply to our written questions indicates that the GLB is still using a manual system to process an application.

We have also submitted written questions for dozens of applications to assess their progress, but responses from the MEC have been slow.

The written response from the MEC also admits that there are problems with telephone lines and connectivity at every single GLB branch.

However, at the heart of the matter is the fact that corruption is rife at the GLB and quite openly spoken about by both staff and liquor consultants. It is as ubiquitous in the GLB as in Eskom, Prasa, and any government entity in South Africa currently.

If you are experiencing a delay in your application for a liquor license, please visit the following link (Insert the URL to our google form). We will address your query directly with the MEC in a written question.

The GLB can be turned around to become a capable, customer-facing entity that delivers quality services to the liquor industry. Achieving that is going to require political will, something that the DA is well known for and ready to do.

DA to hand over Kokosi residents’ memorandum of grievances to COGTA to ensure power to the people

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has received a memorandum of grievances from the concerned residents of Kokosi township about electricity load reduction that we will hand over to the Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Mzi Khumalo and seek his urgent intervention to solve the issue.

Around 3000 residents marched to Fochville Civic Center on Thursday to hand over a memorandum however, there was no one from the MEC’s office and the Merafong Local Municipality to receive their memorandum. We were reliably informed that the MEC’s office and the Merafong Local Municipality could not come to receive the memorandum because the organisers of the march were not granted permission to march.

While we urge residents to abide by the law by following the proper channels to apply for marches, as it is within their right to protest, we believe that both the MEC’s office and the Merafong municipality should have been much more responsive and authentic in their handling of the situation.

This is because the residents are raising burning issues that are affecting them daily. We intervened when there was no one to attend to these legitimate concerns to avoid the protest becoming potentially chaotic and violent. The business community on the protest march route were warned early, allowing them to take precautions.

The residents are complaining that there was no proper engagement with them with regards to electricity load reduction. Service delivery is being interrupted due to electricity load reduction, and residents and businesses are paying for electricity but still not having adequate access.

Service delivery has collapsed in Merafong, and residents are suffering. This has been made worse with the implementation of electricity load reduction.

The DA will engage with MEC Khumalo to ascertain whether they have plans in place to resolve the electricity issue in Merafong. The DA Councillors will also engage the Merafong Mayor and the City Manager to ascertain how they intend to resolve the issue.

We also urge residents of Merafong to remain calm while we are engaging both the MEC, and the Merafong Municipality and we will provide feedback. The DA is currently working on alternative solutions by engaging different stakeholders across the municipality.

The DA would like to thank all stakeholders including the Public Order Police, NGO’s, private security firms and the residents of Fochville, for their outstanding collaboration during this event. We also wish to thank Kokosi residents who took part in the protest for maintaining good discipline.

Merafong residents continue to suffer due to rampant cable theft

All the authorities that are meant to protect residents from the economic and security risks of unchecked cable theft are currently failing the residents of Merafong.

The DA in Merafong has been working hard since April this year to get the authorities to collaborate in a “whole of society” approach to curb infrastructure theft and vandalism.

We met with senior South African Police Service (SAPS) officials to find out exactly how they want these crimes reported. We then received their undertaking to support our initiatives and to respond accordingly. We also met with the Executive Mayor, Nuzoko Best who undertook the cause to have the Municipal Manager (MM), Siyathemba Mdletetshe make statements to SAPS for every cable theft incident. We are grateful to residents who have responded to our calls by reporting their case numbers to us for tracking.

Sadly though, our infrastructure in Merafong is being stolen right under the noses of an unresponsive municipality and SAPS. Merafong has already had three municipal managers in the last two months. Such instability and uncertainty are bad for staff morale.

At the start of our campaign, SAPS reported at a local Community Police Forum (CPF) meeting that it appears as if all these efforts from various role players in our community are yielding results. However, the lethal combination of never-ending load shedding, an increase in food and fuel costs, and a shortage of jobs have created fertile ground for large cable theft syndicates to flourish. Recent nightly incidents include Greenspark, where residents disrupted the theft and kept guard over the cable.

See pictures here, here and here.

The Silver Street and Impala Street substations were vandalised on the 28th of November, and every morning, lists of incidents from Welverdiend are shared on various CPF groups. The Municipality is now worried that they will not have the money to pay for cable to get Welverdiend powered up again. At the time of writing, large swaths of Oberholzer are without power and both Eureka Park and Senatus retirement villages are also in the dark.

The DA in Merafong will now escalate our efforts and will take the following steps:

• At every CPF meeting, our councillors will require a full report back from SAPS.
• We will ask for a full report on each of the cases we are tracking from the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety.
• We will provide feedback to our residents and answers from these authorities on all our communications platforms.

Our DA ward councillors are inundated with complaints daily and we will continue to report cases and give feedback to the community, but the situation is dire.

In the meantime, residents are reminded to keep a vigilant lookout in their communities and report any incidences immediately to SAPS so that a case number can be dropped here for us to track.

The DA will continue to put pressure on SAPS and Merafong Municipality while we enjoin the Provincial Government. It is no excuse that cable theft is rampant everywhere in the province. Action is now required.

Please report any cases of cable theft here-

R9 billion in irregular expenditure by Gauteng departments puts service delivery at risk

Gauteng residents continue to suffer through the ineptitude of the provincial government which is constantly failing to clamp down on irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

This information was revealed this week at a two-day breakaway held by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).

According to the report that deals with the Public Finance Management Act Provincial Audit outcomes, irregular expenditure to the tune of R9,73 billion was incurred, while fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounted to R378 million.

The following departments are the top offenders when it comes to irregular expenditure:

• Health- R2,57 billion
• Roads and Transport- R2,48 billion
• Education- R812 million
• Infrastructure Development- R340 million
• e-Government- R413 million

The main reason for the large amount of irregular expenditure and fruitless and wasteful expenditure is due to non-compliance with Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes.

This is very concerning as it means that loopholes exist within the system for potential corruption to occur.

The DA proposes that to clamp down on non-compliance with the SCM, officials who circumvent the SCM process must face consequence management. In a situation where the same officials are found to be contravening the policy and procedures put in a place, formal disciplinary hearings must take place. The impunity for floating processes and violating policy must end.

If these efforts are intensified by the current government, public funds will be managed correctly, and we will not see a repeat of the recent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) scandal.

A DA government will ensure that the SCM policies that are in place are followed, and if any official disregards these directives, they will face immediate disciplinary action.

Taxpayers’ money should be spent transparently and meticulous records of where every cent is spent must be kept accordingly.

2 515 000 Gauteng residents remain unemployed as Makhura’s job creation plans stumble

The slight decrease in the unemployment rate in Gauteng may be an indication that markets are stabilising in the wake of a pandemic-induced economic shutdown.

However, it does very little to inspire the 2 515 000 unemployed residents that might believe the government is doing everything in their power to create an environment conducive to more job opportunities.

Currently, there are also 657 000 discouraged job seekers in the province.

This was revealed this week when Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter of 2022.

The high unemployment rate is very concerning as this means that the interventions that Premier Makhura claims are in place to address the unemployment rate are not having an impact on the ground. The Gauteng Township Economic Development Act was promulgated back in March. According to its provisions, municipalities have six months to pass the by-laws required to fully implement the Act. It is also unclear how far the provincial government has come with the establishment of the Fund provided for in the Act, which is meant to support township businesses with start-up capital.

The DA supported the Act because as a piece of legislation, it contains all the building blocks needed. However, as is often the case with the government, the implementation lags far behind. What is required is a “whole of society” approach. The government needs to see businesses, big and small, as partners, not beneficiaries. Every member of society, whether in a township or not, must be seen as a potential customer, with spending power.

Premier Makhura’s cabinet appears unable to make the ideological and policy shift towards maximum personal and economic freedom that engages all of society.

Just the ICT sector alone has shown signs over the last two years that with the correct training and skills development our unemployed residents, particularly the youth would be able to use technology to start their own businesses. The ICT disruption brought about by the pandemic means there are many opportunities out there for our unemployed residents to mine.

The DA is ready and willing to forge a new path and collaborate with anyone who shares our values on economic freedom. We believe that it can be done, and we are making strides where we govern.

In the meantime, we will continue to put pressure on the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to have our motion of no confidence in Premier Makhura put on the agenda for debate as soon as possible.

At least 134 incidents of cable theft and vandalism in Merafong since April

The DA in Merafong has been devising solutions to disrupt the rampant cable theft and vandalism of our infrastructure.

By monitoring the crimes  reported on CPF Whatsapp groups in Carletonville, we have been able to build a database of cable theft incidents.

Our records, which represent only a snapshot of the magnitude of cable theft, currently stand at 134 incidents as of 29 July. Our database does not yet monitor other CPF groups in Merafong so it is quite plausible that many more crimes have taken place.

The bigger problem is that in most instances, these criminal events are not reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) on their formal channels, and the municipality -as the owner of the infrastructure- does not make formal statements to the SAPS after these crimes.

Unfortunately, cable thieves have become so brazen that they target certain locations multiple times, perhaps knowing that they will not be arrested.

To disrupt the supply chain of stolen copper cable, the DA proposes the following solution that involves every member of society:

• Residents need to remain vigilant and report cable theft to the SAPS immediately. Persons who cannot report at the SAPS in person can dial 018 787 9316 or 7. Once you have received your reference number from SAPS, drop it here. To follow this campaign, click here .
• The DA in Merafong will ensure firstly that the municipal manager makes the required statements to the SAPS, and secondly that all the cases residents log with us get monitored and reported on. We will give the community regular updates about reported cable theft and vandalism.
• We have established a collaborative, “whole of society” approach with our local police, and they have undertaken to react within their mandate for every reported case.

The DA in Merafong extends our gratitude towards our private security companies who are so responsive on community WhatsApp groups.

The biggest game changer, however, is our residents of Merafong. They are showing us that activism starts in your own neighbourhood and that by each person doing their small part, we can disrupt these cable thieves.

The DA will continue to put pressure on all role players through continued oversight, monitoring, and community feedback.

Merafong is trying to hide its adverse audit opinion from the ratepayer – why?

While residents of Merafong Local Municipality continue to suffer the indignity of living without water, electricity and regular refuse removal, the municipal council is also intent on hiding the true state of its malaise by keeping residents in the dark about audit outcomes.

The DA shares the concerns and anger of the residents over the shocking state of their once beautiful rural towns. We believe it is best to take residents into our confidence and to be honest about what is going on.

During a council sitting last week, a report was tabled “in committee” about the shocking findings of the Auditor-General on the annual financial statements of the municipality. It is not clear why the item was conducted in committee which means that the public is not allowed in the chamber when the audit report is freely available to the public. However, residents should be aware of the following:

  • Merafong received an adverse audit opinion. This means that according to the Auditor-General, “The financial statements contain material misstatements that are not confined to specific amounts, or the misstatements represent a substantial portion of the financial statements”.
  • The basis for the adverse outcome includes an understatement of assets, an overstatement of debtors, inadequacy of record-keeping, incorrect cash flow statements and various material uncertainties.
  • The municipality is currently legally non-compliant on several counts. Financial statements were not delivered within legal timeframes, were not prepared within legal formats and what was submitted was a lie.
  • Accounting officers awarded bids without inviting competitors, and then they did not monitor the performance of the companies they appointed. This resulted in irregular expenditure of over R33 million.
  • The Municipal Public Accounts Committee lamented in their report that the accounting officer does not know how to prepare financial statements and the origin of the statements is unknown or uncertain.

After a marathon council sitting of over 5 hours, the council made several resolutions that residents should know and monitor:

  • The Executive Mayor is tasked to get urgent help from the provincial government.
  • Permanent staff appointments need to be done urgently to avoid the high level of accountability failures by acting staff.
  • The departments causing most of these findings which are Infrastructure and Electricity in particular need be “scrutinized” for poor performance.

While it is a good sign that the Municipal Public Accounts Committee report was passed by Council at all, residents should take note of the bigger picture. Local governance in Merafong is in terminal distress and ANC infighting is at unprecedented levels. The Municipal Public Accounts Committee report was not written by Municipal Public Accounts Committee because no one has the skills to do it. As a going concern, Merafong should not exist.

The situation in Merafong can be turned around only if there is a political will to get the basics right, so residents can once again be proud of Merafong. Our community members, private security companies, CPFs, and business leaders have been outstanding in keeping our towns going, and we only need a new public governance regime.


Service delivery remains non-existent while GPG incurs R1.6 billion of unauthorized expenditure

The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has incurred unauthorized expenditure to the tune of R1.6 billion which is placing an extra financial burden on the residents of this province and has a negative impact on service delivery.

Unauthorized expenditure occurs when more money is paid for goods and services than was initially budgeted for.

In addition, if a department utilizes a saving from the salaries budget to buy goods and services, such expenditure is also unauthorized.

At a recent meeting of the Gauteng’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) it emerged that as of the 31 March, six departments within the provincial government incurred unauthorized expenditure as follows:
• Economic Development R 16.7 million
• Health R 653.9 million
• Education R 935.8 million
• Social Development R29 million
• Human Settlements R7.1 million
• Infrastructure Development R 30.3 million

The unauthorized expenditure amount represents just over 1% of the overall provincial budget which is just shy of R149 billion.

Should SCOPA find that the procedures in the guidelines for authorized expenditure were not followed or the criteria were not satisfied, SCOPA will recommend that the unauthorized amount be recouped from the new budget before any other money is spent.

In the case of Health, as stated above, the department will forfeit almost R636 million rand from its new budget to pay for the previous year’s over-expenditure if SCOPA so recommends.

This means that a critical service like Health will have to provide services with an even more constrained budget, which will negatively impact the residents of Gauteng. Our residents will have to wait longer as some public healthcare services may not have sufficient healthcare personnel or equipment.

If this mismanagement of public funds is not fixed in time, officials do not face consequence management, and money is not repaid, SCOPA can punish unauthorized expenditure by making departments pay out of their new budgets.

The DA will insist that SCOPA ensures that the Unauthorized Expenditure Bill that was adopted by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) in 2016 be enforced.

This bill makes provision for Provincial Treasury to assist some departments by paying off historic unauthorized expenditures if the departments have given satisfactory reasons for the unauthorized expenditure.

Where a department has unauthorized expenditure that is unjustified it must be funded from the department’s own budget.

The DA will write to the GPL SCOPA Chairperson, Sochayile Khanyile demanding that the Unauthorized Expenditure Bill be enforced to ensure that GPG departments adhere to all Provincial and National Treasury Guidelines.

By adhering to this bill government departments will be forced to budget correctly and spend money wisely for the benefit of our residents.

Disrupting Corruption: The Case for Data Science

By Ina Cilliers MPL, DA Gauteng Spokesperson on the Standing Committee for Public Accounts (SCOPA 

South Africa has a big problem with corruption in government supply chains. The most salient recent example would be the looting of funds during the Covid 19 pandemic, specifically the procurement of personal protective equipment in the Gauteng Department of Health. Mark Heywood correctly asserted in the Daily Maverick that unless we introduce the certainty of punishment for corrupt public officials, we will lose the fight against corruption. The “July Insurrection” has taught us that these events affect our daily lives. They cause job losses and food price increases and are especially hard on the Youth sector. Even Cosatu recognized back in 2017 that corruption costs us at least 27 billion rand and 76 000 jobs a year. That was before the pandemic. 

Now imagine a scenario where an accounting officer in the Department of Health can accurately predict the likelihood that fruitless and wasteful expenditure will occur, and act to prevent it? Ponder for a moment the transformative power to predict the likelihood of xenophobic attacks or unrest such as the now infamous July unrest of 2021, so that they may be averted altogether? What if an entire government supply chain can be managed by a distributed ledger like a Blockchain, so that not a single public official is involved? 

Business domains including the banking and insurance industries have been making these kinds of predictions using data science tools for some time now. By employing machine learning to predict risks to its own business models they predict the likelihood of a client defaulting on a loan or instituting an insurance claim. Have you ever wondered why the bank did not want to give you a loan? There is an algorithm behind that!  

Data Science is an emerging field of inquiry usually associated with buzzwords such as Big Data (BD), Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). All of these terms have their roots in classical statistics. Stated plainly, statistical learning is quite simply, learning from data (. This is made possible by two conspiring realities: the costs of storing data has decreased enormously over the years, and commensurately, the computational power of hardware has increased exponentially (McCallum, 2008). This means that it is computationally possible to find patterns and correlations in very large datasets (hence, Big Data). One way of understanding this ability is to say: if the data is too large for an Excel spreadsheet, or too large for a CPU to handle, its potentially a job for data science. 

What if we brought data science and good governance into the same room for a chat? I think there are enormous benefits to such an approach for good governance, evidence-based policy making, and in the fight against corruption. Full disclosure: I am wearing more than one hat. 

As a legislator in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) and a member of The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), I often hear well-founded complaints about the ex post facto way we do oversight. The Sector Oversight Model (SOM) adopted by the South African legislative sector is a backward-looking tool. Oversight typically occurs months after irregular public expenditure has occurred. Committee recommendations do not scare corrupt officials. 

As a social researcher and budding code writer (Python is fun!), this makes me wonder of the potential to use an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) or a Decision Tree Regressor as a catalytic mechanism in the fight against corruption. The specific model is not as important as a few reality checks though: 

In the web-native world of data science, anybody can write code, train a computer model, and set it free on real data. This is indeed encouraged by the fact that free and open-source resources are now ubiquitous. According to Urban and Pineda adequately problematizes this abundance of free information: Most of it is not sufficiently rigorous to warrant deep enquiry, and few resources, if any, are aimed specifically at the policy maker. A simple Google search reveals thousands of short form resources in the form of “How To” video tutorials, articles, listicles and snippets each dealing with a specific subset of the myriad of elements of data science. Topics such as “Preparing data with Pandas” or “How to select features and responses” or “How to determine if my chosen algorithm is performing” all invite enticing glimpses of problem solving. Rarely is the world of data science systematically unpacked, referenced and peer-reviewed specifically for the policy maker, the legislator and the government official. And yet, on the periphery of applied policy making, most officials are aware of concepts such as BD, ML and AI. These concepts need to be firstly demystified before being introduced formally in the governance domain.  

The second question is whether the data exists. Let me explain. Data about government performance is everywhere, and it is abundant.  In my case SCOPA members are inundated with data all the time.  Data sources include portfolio committee reports, the AGSA, the public service commission, the financial and fiscal commission, the SIU, internal audit reports, departmental quarterly reports, and the list goes on. Yet in the midst of all this information, I very much doubt that a dataset exists that is ready for machine learning. If anyone reading this would like to rebut my assertion, I would welcome such a development. It will save my research several months! 

The third issue is with reproducibility. If my team and I build an ML model that performs well on unseen data, we must share! It should be standard practice that not only datasets but the actual code must be made available as a standard part of the research (Data School, 2014). This is because sometimes algorithms don’t work, machine learning models experience degradation over time, or we make the wrong business decisions from the data. In such cases, we may all learn from our failures just as much as from our triumphs. 

For the policy maker, machine learning can become the tool that helps us prove or disprove our intuition about the problem we are trying to solve. Here are a few of my recommendations for disrupting corruption with a data-driven approach: 

Firstly, governments need to become data driven learning organisations. For this to happen much more research and experimentation is needed. Officials and domain experts in government department are vital to the success of the undertaking because they make those vital inferences from the data on which decisions for say, corruption busting, hinges 

Secondly, we need  to find a place for data science in the policy life cycle. Ideally more than one place. Statistical models can help policymakers move from inputs and outputs to outcomes and impacts. This would depend on the computational efficiency available and the particular problem that the machine is trying to learn on, but every stage of the policy life cycle can benefit from machine learning. 

Next is to bring together the data scientist, the statistician and the domain expert. Governance is an immensely complex undertaking. Every moment of the day, thousands upon thousands of financial transactions happen across municipal, provincial and national budget line items, often involving staggering amounts. This is all happening in an environment regulated by a myriad of complex laws and regulations. Officials often underestimate their domain knowledge and they don’t get credit for being able to assimilate all this complexity. The current consensus is that the best problem solving teams include data scientists, statisticians and domain experts (Mukherjee, 2019). All three have distinct roles to play in arriving at informed governance decisions. 

The possibilities for machine learning to tackle corruption are very exciting. But it still requires humility from the data scientist, an understanding of the theory, and a willingness from the government official to give freely of his domain knowledge. And finally, no model can ever predict with a 100% accuracy. We should be honest about that when pitching solutions to legislatures and governments alike.