Auditor-General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke says deficiencies in government’s supply chain processes compromised the implementation of the various Covid-19 related programmes.
Maluleke released the second report into the Covid-19 relief funds audit on Wednesday, saying more could have been achieved if the “funds and related initiatives had been managed better”.
She said her office had raised “red flags” over the difficulty in finding credible and reliable databases that are appropriately integrated across various government departments and their entities. The lack of credible and reliable integration of data across different government platforms resulted in people receiving benefits and grants to which they were not entitled.
The report also found that some of the Covid-19 initiatives did not achieve their desired results and had to be abandoned because of “failed coordination, monitoring and relationships across the three spheres of government”.
For example, around 16% of the water tanks installed by Rand Water in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng during July and August were empty. The initiative to provide the tanks was part of the Water and Sanitation Department’s programme to temporarily supply water tanks – filled with water – in an effort to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
In the Free State, Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape 45% of the water tanks that were deployed did not have unique identification numbers to confirm that they were Covid-19-related tanks.
Some of these tanks had been redeployed to other areas, according to Rand Water – but without the identification number, the AG’s office was unable to verify the completeness of the inventory list.
Over 8 000 water tanks were delivered to various municipalities across the country.
Maluleke highlighted the water tanks example as one where pre-existing weaknesses within departments and their entities impacted negatively on the implementation of Covid-19 programmes.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus in South Africa, the government announced a R500 billion social and economic relief package. The AG’s office has been tasked by President Cyril Ramaphosa to conduct an audit of the management of R147.4 billion of the funds made available for these initiatives.
By the end of September R95.84 billion (65%) of the funds had been spent by the various government departments on Covid-19 initiatives.
Releasing the first report three months ago, former AG the late Kimi Makwetu said the funds that had been earmarked by the government had landed in a “weak control environment” where leakages of funds were easily conducted.
Maluleke echoed Makwetu’s words, saying pre-existing issues such as poor record-keeping by government departments and the mismanagement of funds continue to compromise the roll out of the Covid-19 initiatives.
Maluleke however added that her office has seen an improvement in implementation since the release of the audit, as “ most accounting officers and executive authorities took action to address our findings, implement the recommendations and, in some cases, even took disciplinary steps”.
In the first report, the AG’s office flagged some payments made for the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF’s) Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) and recommended that a high number of payments be recommended for investigation.
These included payouts to people who are below the legal age of employment and others who were deceased, working in government, receiving social grants, or receiving other UIF benefits.
By October , the UIF had successfully recovered R3.4 billion of the incorrectly-disbursed funds.
“Progress has been made in addressing the previously identified system weaknesses, such as a lack of validations and incorrect calculation. However, since most of these enhancements were made during September, we still identified payments that will need to be investigated, although there are far fewer,” Maluleke said.
As for the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), the AG found that some beneficiaries were still receiving the special Covid-19 unemployment grant, despite there being evidence that they were receiving funds from other sources.
As at the end of August, said the AG, 67 770 beneficiaries potentially received income from these sources, which represents 0.32% of the approved applications.
She noted that 1 513 beneficiaries are directors of companies that have government contracts.
Maluleke said that Sassa has flagged all irregular beneficiaries, and investigations into the matter are currently being conducted.