The KwaZulu-Natal government has failed in several of its service delivery targets with an Auditor-General (AG) report noting poor financial management and delays in key projects.
Yet, Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube still lauded the work done by criminally charged director-general in her own office, Dr Nonhlahla Mkhize.
While the AG said there were some improvements in its recent audit, the report revealed stark shortcomings and a lack of proper management from officials in the 2022/23 report.
"The under-achievement of targets was due to poor expenditure management, poor workmanship, and poor project management which had a devastating impact on service delivery," the AG said.
The province is still experiencing a high backlog of housing projects, poor-quality roads and healthcare services among others, it added.
The AG cited the Department of Health saying there were delays in the completion of repairs and upgrades to hospital buildings which impacted their operations "and created a backlog in the provision of healthcare services required by citizens".
"Lack of proper project planning and coordination between the Department of Public Works and client departments negatively impacts the achievement of performance targets and timely provision of service delivery to the citizens," it said.
For a second year in a row, the AG called for KZN departments to strengthen project management techniques, and factor in critical milestones such as "contractual deliverables, timelines, quality and reporting" to ensure efficient service delivery.
While the health, public works, education, transport, and human settlements departments spent nearly 100% of their budgets for different programmes, the actual achievements of targets were low.
In one of its programmes, the health department spent 100% of its budget but only mustered a 36% achievement of target.
A programme in the education department spent 98% of its budget but only managed 25% of its achievement target.
While the number of clean audits increased since the previous administration, there is still room for improvement "as there are eight auditees which are unqualified with findings and two have qualified audit opinions", the report said.
"One key service delivery department [health] improved its audit opinion from qualified to unqualified for the first time since 2008. The Department of Transport still remains qualified."
It stated most of the key service delivery departments could not achieve their performance targets despite spending all their budgets.
"These departments should improve their budget planning and management processes and set realistic performance targets aligned with available resources to enable better service delivery."
The report went on to say although some projects were completed, critical infrastructure projects were "marred by inadequate project planning, cost overruns and excessive delays".
"The financial health of departments improved slightly over the term of the administration.
"However, some departments continued to experience challenges related to cash-flow management and inadequate budget management."
Lack of consequence management
Consequence management overall was still lacking, the AG said.
"This has led to an environment characterised by a lack of discipline and accountability for transgressions.
"The accumulated irregular expenditure from prior years has also not been properly addressed through recovery, condonement or write-off processes."
Inkatha Freedom Party MPL and party spokesperson on finance in the KZN legislature Lourens de Klerk said Dube-Ncube repeatedly demonstrated a lack of will and ability "to take swift and effective action against wrongdoing".
"The premier's feeble attempt to interrogate the disconnect between budget spend and performance targets at various departments is nothing short of an indictment on their leadership."
"It reflects their inability to ensure that taxpayers' hard-earned money is spent responsibly and effectively. Their reluctance to enforce fiscal discipline and hold departments accountable is a disservice to the people they are meant to represent," he added.
Dube-Ncube thanked criminally charged director-general in her office Mkhize for coordination between the provincial executive and government.
"Dr Mkhize is a diligent public servant and a strong bridge that not only connects government, through heads of department and cabinet, but ensures that there is implementation of resolutions of the executive council. Clean governance is one of the core resolutions of cabinet."
Mkhize faces charges of intimidation, defeating the ends of justice and fraud.
She and her 14 co-accused have appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
According to the State, Mkhize allegedly sent Siphiwe Mabaso, another accused, to the home of the water board chairperson, under "false utterances", following the finalisation of a February 2022 report which implicated former CEO Mthokozisi Duze and prominent Durban attorney Ralph Mhlanga in tender fraud.
Her case is expected to move to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on 6 November.