The South Africa auditor-general, Terence Nombembe, has stated that a lack of “committed” leadership lies behind the sharp deterioration in financial management in municipalities.

Nombembe has indicated that only nine municipalities in the country have clean audits.

This year’s figure for irregular expenditure amounts to R9.82 billion, while fruitless and wasteful expenditure reached R568 million — more than double than it was last year.

“Clean audits have remained at the low level of 5% for the past three years, and the overall audit outcomes regressed, as 41 auditees improved, but 51 auditees regressed,” states Nombembe.

“Moreover, almost half of the auditees that obtained a clean audit opinion were municipal entities, rather than municipalities themselves,” he continues. Nombem bebelieves that improved audit outcomes for George, Langeberg and Mossel Bay municipalities in the Western Cape, were a result of “leadership commitment.”

“They prove beyond doubt that clean administration is achievable where there is leadership commitment.”

Nombembe has revealed that all eight metros failed to obtain a clean audit, with one — Mangaung in the Free State — receiving a disclaimer. In 2012 South Africa witnessed a rise in service delivery protests, with the highest citizen action since 2004 recorded in the first half of the year, according to statistics gathered by Municipal IQ.

Deputy Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Andries Nel states the deteriorating audit outcomes should not discourage municipalities from pressing to meet next year’s target of clean governance.

“Laudably ambitious targets were set. Those targets are proving more difficult to reach.”