Ratepayers should be outraged

The Auditor General’s annual report on Ndlambe Municipality is like living in Groundhog Day.

Over the past 14 years that this writer has been working at Talk of the Town, it’s been a succession of qualified audits with a disclaimer and adverse opinion thrown in.

It has become so normal for Ndlambe Municipality to receive a qualified audit report that it is easy to accept it as business as usual rather than with utter dismay.

In fact, the municipality seems to have taken it in its stride by barely referencing the audit opinion. The only difference this year is that it came late, delayed by the Covid lockdown.

We only found out about it because DA caucus leader Ray Schenk sent a letter to Talk of the Town last week, and we asked for our own copy from the municipality.

In his report the AG starts out with the issues that form the basis for his opinion and then draws attention to other matters, including issues of non-compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, which, concerning as they may be, do not modify his opinion.

One of the reasons for the qualified opinion was the municipality not recognising property, plant and equipment in accordance with the required regulation. Work-in-progress was overstated by R18.7-million, and the AG said he was unable to physically verify the work in progress or obtain sufficient audit evidence to confirm it exists.

Also among the reasons was the municipality not recognising all revenue service charges in accordance with the regulation, and it did not have adequate controls to confirm the indigent status of consumers who were not billed for services. The AG said service charges for water and electricity were not billed accurately to consumers as meter readings were not used as a source for billing.

Irregular, unauthorised and fruitless and wasteful expenditure always pops up, as well as the lack of systems in place to identify and record it. Accumulated unauthorised expenditure was put at R308.4-million, and fruitless and wasteful expenditure at 11.1-million.

It doesn’t get any better in the AG’s “emphasis of matters”. For the fourth consecutive year, the AG has highlighted shocking material water losses suffered by the municipality. It amounts to 43% of total water purchased by consumers, in money value R20.2-million. This, in the midst of an ongoing water crisis.

The only respite is that the water losses are not as bad as last year, when they reached a high of 53%.

The AG attributed losses to leaks, burst pipes, reservoir overflows, metering inefficiencies, meter faults and unauthorised and unmetered consumption.

– Jon Houzet

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