The national government had no choice but to intervene in the North West after now-removed Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s office failed to prevent a strike that led to chaotic protests.
Protesters looted shops and burned down property across the province – and forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to cut short a trip to the United Kingdom to quell the unrest.
The inter-ministerial team that was established to investigate the problems in the North West in April has put some of the blame at Mahumapelo’s door‚ saying the Office of the Premier had failed to communicate effectively with the unions.
“It was the absence of the engagement that probably led to the situation as we saw it‚” said Mpumi Mpofu‚ the director-general of the department of planning‚ monitoring and evaluation.
Mpofu is part of the technical team that works with the inter-ministerial team.
The Office of the Premier‚ which is among the departments that have been placed under the administration of the national government‚ is responsible for the central management of the administration. But it is also in charge of planning‚ monitoring and evaluation for the entire province.
“Why did we end up in this place? Possibly because this office did not do as much as it could to prevent the situation‚ and their responsibilities of oversight in this instance come into question‚” she added.
The inter-ministerial task team was briefing an ad hoc committee of the National Council of Provinces‚ which has been established to oversee the national government’s intervention in the North West.
The task team found a slew of weaknesses across the provincial government and in municipalities. These included poor governance practices‚ skills shortages‚ incompetence‚ corruption and questionable supply chain management practices.
Another central department‚ the provincial treasury‚ had identified capacitation of supply chain management in provincial departments and entities as a problem.
“Our findings were in fact that the provincial department [treasury] itself had a clean audit‚ but didn’t do quite well in performing oversight and helping others‚” Mpofu said.
The big problem in the department of rural‚ environment and agricultural development was AgriDelight‚ a project management unit that was appointed to do work in the department‚ she said.
“Our findings were that a number of irregular expenditure originated from the controversial contract of AgriDelight.”
Mpofu explained that many project management units had been appointed to help various departments‚ but it seemed they were the cause of the problems as they were found responsible for irregular expenditure and illegal contracts.
The “most important flag” that emerged was the R15.3-billion accumulated in irregular expenditure across the provincial government‚ which grew consistently from R8.6-billion in 2013/14 to R15.3-billion in 2016/17.
“That’s the summary of the crux of the problem‚” said Mpofu.
Minister in the Presidency‚ responsible for planning‚ monitoring and evaluation‚ Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma‚ who is also the convener of an inter-ministerial task team‚ said they realised there were problems in the province‚ but that the problems in municipalities were worse.
The teams met not only with government officials at municipal level‚ but stakeholders who included local civic organisations and traditional leadership structures.
Common complaints in these meetings‚ Mpofu said‚ included insufficient governance‚ widespread corruption‚ poor service delivery‚ the appointment of incompetent officials‚ lack of consequence management in response to fraud investigations‚ dysfunctional councils‚ unemployment and a lack of support for youth initiatives.
These‚ she said‚ were similar to the task team’s own findings.
Mpofu said they also realised that 20 out of 22 municipalities they visited had received disclaimers or qualified audit opinions in 2016/17. Out of those 22‚ 12 are dysfunctional and require urgent intervention.