Home South African Keep an eye on those KZN relief funds, warns Corruption Watch

Keep an eye on those KZN relief funds, warns Corruption Watch

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A number of civil society organisations, including Corruption Watch, have called on the government to strictly monitor the management of funds earmarked for KwaZulu-Natal, which has been declared a disaster zone.

Multiple vehicles are seen under the rubble at the Khokhoba informal settlement. Picture: Theo Jeptha/African News Agency (ANA)

A NUMBER of civil society organisations, including Corruption Watch, have called on the government to strictly monitor the management of funds earmarked for KwaZulu-Natal, which has been declared a disaster zone.

The devastation caused by the floods in KwaZulu-Natal after days of incessant and unprecedented rainfall resulted in the government declaring a disaster in the province, which also ultimately allows the release of special funding to assist the thousands of displaced people.

Corruption Watch executive director Karam Singh said that as the announcement of relief funds begin to materialise, with the national government pledging around R1 billion and the provincial government earmarking funds to assist, the need to monitor the disbursement of funds was as critical as ever.

Various government departments and humanitarian organisations have shared plans about the establishment of funds, also calling on South Africans to contribute to relief efforts through accounts set up for donations, including an account opened by the provincial government for that purpose.

“Experience has clearly shown the vulnerability of our procurement systems to corruption in times of crisis, if one considers the rampant corruption during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Singh.

“The immediacy of the situation and the precarious position of so many KZN residents require fast and efficient use of resources to meet the most basic needs of water, food and shelter. There must be absolute transparency and full disclosure of how these funds are being distributed, ensuring that they reach the communities for whom they are intended,” he added.

Widespread perceptions of corruption in eThekwini Municipality over the past few years have also not instilled confidence in the local government structures, or its commitment to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable communities in the city, the watchdog added.

Singh suggested that the best way to ensure that funds were correctly allocated and spent was to have systems in place that allow government, oversight bodies and civil society to monitor the allocations and spending.

But for effective monitoring to take place, Singh said there needed to be transparency in the system by way of publication of the information.

“The auditor-general must be activated to do real-time audits of spending, in a potentially effective and appropriate preventative measure that should be used in this instance,” Singh said, adding that lessons must be learned from the debacle around personal protective equipment and the subsequent publication of Covid-19-related spending, which allowed those monitoring to pick up irregularities.

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