Sakeliga today initiated litigation against the Auditor-General of South Africa (AG) to make public, for the first time, the undisclosed management reports of 154 distressed municipalities.
The release of the reports could herald a new era in municipal litigation, accountability for state officials, and disclosure of how taxes were spent.
Although the AG has a constitutional duty to make the management reports public, it has never been released. The management reports differ from the summary reports that are released annually, as they contain detailed information on specific instances of corruption, wasteful spending, management problems, fruitless expenditure of tax money, and other irregularities, as discovered by the audit teams. In contrast to this, the AG’s normal annual headline audit reports, which are available to the public, are of summary nature. Until now, only the summary audit reports had been made public, while the advanced management reports were reserved for the municipal and other state authorities themselves.
Sakeliga became aware last year of the existence of the management reports in the course of our litigation on municipal failure in Northwest. In January 2022, Sakeliga requested access under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to the management reports on 154 distressed municipalities country-wide, where there exist severe problems with service delivery and financial administration.
The AG denied Sakeliga’s application. We therefore today filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for a ruling to compel the AG to release the management reports to Sakeliga.
Sakeliga intends to analyse and release these reports to chambers of commerce, civil society organisations, and the general public to support them in their efforts at handling state failure and improving greater local economic independence. Because of their detail and scope, the management reports could be instrumental in litigation and other interventions by businesses and civil society in general to reverse local economic deterioration.
In the meantime, Sakeliga expresses its appreciation for thorough work by the AG in identifying in her annual management reports the decay, mismanagement, and corruption at municipalities. Our position is, however, that the AG’s annual reports offers little value to the public if left undisclosed. After all, time and again it is organisations in civil society who have to address municipal failures, for which they are reliant upon good information.
Section 188 of the Constitution compels the AG to make public all audit reports, including the management reports. Section 188(3) reads: “The Auditor-General must submit audit reports to any legislature that has a direct interest in the audit, and to any other authority prescribed by national legislation. All reports must be made public.”
According to court rules, the AG now has fifteen court days to file a notice of opposition, should the AG wish to oppose the application.
Read Sakeliga’s court paper’s here.
Legal and Liaison Officer, Sakeliga
Piet le Roux