Limpopo ‘seriously needs help’, fails once again in audit rankings

The Basic Education department in Limpopo has retained its status as the worst-performing province once again, receiving the lowest ranking – a disclaimer – in its audit outcome.

The Western Cape was the top-performing province and the only one to obtain a clean audit, which is an unqualified audit with no findings.

Briefing MPs at the basic education portfolio committee in Parliament on Tuesday, senior manager at the Auditor-General’s office Godfrey Diale said that Limpopo had actually regressed in the 2014-2015 year.

“If there was something stronger than a disclaimer, we would have expressed it as that. The province has deteriorated … Limpopo seriously needs help. It is not a good story,” he said.

Overall, the national department obtained an unqualified audit with findings, the same as the previous year, though with improvements.

One of the biggest problems was irregular expenditure related to infrastructure, where prescribed processes were not followed. This amounted to more than R727.6 million.

In addition, more than R6.8 million constituted unauthorised expenditure. This was mostly attributed to the department stepping in after sponsors withdrew from a national teacher awards function.

The other poor performers were the Eastern Cape, which received a qualified audit, the same as the previous year. Mpumalanga’s performance deteriorated from an unqualified audit with findings to a qualified audit.

The Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and North West fared better, obtaining unqualified audits with findings.

In seeking remedies for the poor performers, Diale said that the tone needed to be set from the top. Officials needed to be held accountable and steps put in place to ensure that responsibilities were executed and that there were consequences for nondelivery.

“In Limpopo, there have been many interventions to remedy the situation in previous years but it is not getting to the point where there are improvements,” said Diale.

During the briefing MPs raised concerns that more needed to be done to ensure a turnaround, with some suggesting that the only way to ensure effective change was if officials were named and shamed.

During a later briefing on the department’s annual report, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga agreed that Limpopo and Eastern Cape were a constant concern, and she was disappointed that Mpumalanga had slipped this year.

She described Limpopo officials as “arrogant”, saying that when officials from the national department arranged to visit the province to try and assist, they didn’t turn up.

“They told the officials that they had enough expertise of their own,” she said, adding that she was in talks with the new MEC for education in a bid to turn things around.