Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

In an effort to curb irregular expenditure and corruption in her department, human settlements, water & sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has roped in the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the police and the National Treasury to help with investigations.

The department has lined up several disciplinary cases against senior and junior officials to have them answer for the irregular spending. The department has also opened a number of criminal cases against some officials.

Over the past five years, the department has incurred more than R2.4bn in irregular expenditure.

Department spokesperson Steve Motale said the incidents of irregular expenditure were mostly related to contractual obligations from previous financial years.

“Such expenditure, though irregular, does not result in expenditure down the drain,” said Motale.

He said action against incidents of unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure was under way, including disciplinary and legal proceedings.

Motale said efforts so far had resulted in an improved internal control environment, leading to unqualified audit opinions in both the human settlements and the water and sanitation departments.

He said that during the 2019/2020 financial year, proactive work by the internal audit unit also averted irregular expenditure of R1.36bn.

“During the 2020/2021 financial year, the same efforts also averted irregular expenditure which would have cost R750m,” he added.

He said 10 of the 13 entities reporting to the department had tabled their annual reports and had received two clean audit outcomes — for the uMhlathuze and Magalies water boards.

He said four water boards received unqualified audit opinion: Bloem, Umgeni, Lepelle Northern and Overberg.

“To improve the control environment, quarterly finance meetings are held with entities to discuss and monitor irregular expenditure and biannual meetings chaired by the chair of audit committees are held with entities' audit committee chairs to improve governance at large.”

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