VINOUS: Picturesque, healthy-looking wine farms in the Western Cape hide the reality that many of their owners are battling to stay afloat
VINOUS: Picturesque, healthy-looking wine farms in the Western Cape hide the reality that many of their owners are battling to stay afloat

The DA-led Western Cape provincial government has taken the auditor-general to court to fight the one qualified audit opinion the provincial government received for the 2017/18 financial year.

The provincial government’s department of agriculture has disagreed with the auditor-general’s interpretation of its financial statements and has filed papers in the high court to review and set aside the disputed findings.

The province boasted in October that an analysis of the audit outcomes for 2017/18 indicated that a total of 23 out of 24 audits — which included all the Western Cape departments, the provincial legislatures and entities — received unqualified audits on their financial statements.

However, only six months before the national elections, the ANC-led Gauteng government has already boasted that it is the only province in which all its departments received unqualified audit opinions for 2017/18, after being briefed by auditor-general Kimi Makwetu on the state of affairs.

The auditor-general will table the outcomes of the provincial and national audit results on November 21.

Bianca Capazorio, spokesperson for newly appointed economic opportunities MEC Beverley Schäfer, said on Monday the Western Cape department of agriculture was challenging the outcomes of both its 2016/17 and 2017/18 audit reports.

She said the department had received “consecutive clean audits for a number of years and prides itself on its high level of fiscal responsibility and accountability”, but that the current matter dealt with a difference in technical interpretations between the department and the auditor-general’s office about the classification of certain payments made to entities involved in farmer settlement and disaster-relief projects in the Western Cape.

Capazorio said the department and the auditor-general’s office had been engaging on the matter for some time but were unable to find common ground, which led to the department turning to the courts.

She said they had approached the High Court in Cape Town for relief on the matter, which related to how payments were made and classified with regards to contracts between the department and some institutions.

She said the payments were classified as transfers in the department’s financial statements, which has historically not led to any adverse audit findings.

She said there was, however, a recent change in the auditor-general’s approach and interpretation of the relevant standards, which had resulted in unexpected adverse findings in the audit.

“Papers have been filed in the high court seeking an order to review and set aside the disputed findings and ask that the auditor-general apply the applicable standards correctly, which should result in an unqualified audit outcome. We will await the ruling of the court before commenting further on the matter,” Capazorio said.

The auditor-general’s spokesperson Africa Boso said Makwetu  would only deal with matters relating to the audits on the day the general report on the audit outcomes of the national and provincial accounts are tabled.