Miriam Mannak
Miriam Mannak

R54.5bn has gone AWOL: Why no outrage?

Please do me a favour and jump back in time – say 12 to 16 months back. You are driving home from work and the radio is on. All of a sudden the news presenter announces how the RXXXX billion for Cape Town’s / Joburg’s / Rustenburg’s / Durban’s stadium has vanished without a trace. Therefore the construction has been halted and as a result the stadium will not be completed in time. “Cape Town / Joburg / Rustenburg / Durban therefore will not be part of the world’s biggest party, as the authorities say they have no idea where the money went and can’t account for it. Construction company has therefore decided to go on strike until the city shows them the money,” the presenter adds.

What would your response have been? How would the world have reacted? Exactly. It would have been smokin’ hot news around the globe and the information would have dominated every newspaper’s headline days on end. I am pretty sure people would have hit the streets to protest screaming “where is the money? We want the world cup!”.

I am damn sure.

So *why* is it that not a soul in this country is raising his or her voice with regards to the media reports that claim that R44 billion (almost *tenfold* of the price tag attached to the Cape Town stadium) has been lost by various provincial departments of education? Only three of our nine provincial departments – THREE! – had a clean audit this year. The cash that has gone walkies represents *one third* of the amount the national education budget has reserved for the provinces (R123 billion).

*Takes a deep breath*

I surely hope these media reports are wrong. Just as wrong as the stories about the government admitting to have lost R10.5 billion in social grants. The latter amount, if true, is the equivalent to about 10 million pensions, dear readers!

All in all, if all of the above is true and if the journalists haven’t made a typo, the total amount of money that has gone AWOL (well, the amount we know about …) is worth more than double the amount the World Bank lent Eskom (±R26 billion) to sort out its shit. That is not pocket change. It is a bloody big chunk of cash! Tax payers’ money! OUR money! Money WE have worked for! Money that was given to us by international governments to help us out; money earned by Europeans and Americans and god knows who else!

So why are we sitting behind our computers and TVs and Wii’s and play stations instead of hitting the streets to hold the leaders accountable? Why has the information above not been in the headlines more prominently? Why-Why-Why?

*Takes another deep breath, lights incense, dims lights and takes on some Zennish yoga position*

What on earth is the rest of the world supposed to think about us, now? Earlier this year, the European Union gave South Africa 123 million euro (R1.3 billion) to improve its primary education system. Yesterday, the European Union pledged another chunk of development assistance (predominantly meant for health care improvement) worth 138 million euro (± R1.4 billion). If I were a European policy maker, I’d put a big fat red line through these and future promises and feed the documents to my dog. Why sink cash into a bottomless pit?

Look, I too lose stuff. I lose my keys, I love my mind, I lose my sense of humour and sometimes I just lose my cool. Dúh. I have lost CDs, bank cards, phones and lighters. People lose stuff, I understand that. But how can it be that our very leaders who are supposed to take care of this country and those living in it lose billions of rands which are so very very much needed to make this land a ‘better place for all’? You need to have a serious talent for that.

You might think: take a chill pill as there is nothing we can do about it. Well, I refuse. Sure, it is what it is but that does not mean it should be. As a full-time believer in this country, I am angry. Fuming. The cash that has gone walkabout could have for instance been spent to tackle the shortage of 42.000 nurses (ratio patient:nurse -> 100.000:140, that’s 23% less than the world average), to raise salaries of those who work in this field and to make sure public hospitals in rural areas can function properly. How insane is it that someone who is responsible to save lives only earns R60.000 per year? That is – with all do respect – f*k*ll.

If the government does not do something very very quickly, youngsters will no longer decide to study to become a nurse or a teacher. I can’t blame them either. Why would you graft for years and years at Uni to earn peanuts and to be overburdened and to work in a crappy hospital that is falling apart where babies are dying en masse? I wouldn’t, I am sorry.

I, in the meantime, hope that these figures are the product of a typo comprising two to five zeros.

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/miriammannak Miriam Mannak

    @ Thandinkosi: Thanks for this.
    Whether it is corruption or negligence / incompetency: who ever is responsible needs to either tell us where the money has gone to. Maybe a second audit is needed – perhaps a mistake was made. Who knows.

    @ Dave Harris: Again – I never accused anyone within the government of stealing or of fraud or of corruption. These are words you put in my mouth. What I wrote is that money was lost. Well, I might be wrong of course.

  • Lesego

    @Lesego Please read your posts before submitting. I have a very difficult time understanding what you are trying to say, and you say it so many times. If you are struggling with language get a friend to help you – thanks.

    GarethV on October 25th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Perhaps we speak different kinds of English but English nevertheless. You say Tomato and I say Tomayto. But I do understand your English. In fact I understand various kinds of English expect some parts of X Cepting’s. And GarethV, you should rather say “struggling with English” not “struggling with language” as English is not the only language.

  • Lesego

    Sue on October 26th, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Thats right, you shouldnt just take any rubbish being smeared on a paper as fact without demanding a detailed explanation, thats what I normally.

  • GarethV

    @Lesego – Wow you seemed to get offended rather easily. I had not meant to offend you Lesego, and I apologise if I did. I am merely having trouble understanding your argument on so many levels, but now I think I understand – red mist?

  • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

    @Miriam Mannak
    “What I wrote is that money was lost”
    Miriam, Miriam, Miriam…tsk, tsk…we know very well what your euphemism “lost” really means, don’t we?

    You may want get up to speed on how to read financial statements and then tell us again were you derived your “44 + 10.5 = 54.5″ billion that the government “lost” and then try to answer my questions above. I’m still banking on you to do the honorable thing.

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/miriammannak Miriam Mannak

    @Dave Harris: You accused me of shoddy journalism. If you were a journalist, I could accuse you of the same. Thanks for putting words in my mouth and assuming things. As I have stated over and over again – and so did other – I derived the figures from newspapers reports. 10.5 billion = SASSA 9which minister of social development acknowledged). 44.5 billion = provincial departments of education. You do the maths.
    Lastly: reread my column. Please do – and don;t just read what you think I wrote.

  • X Cepting

    @Dave Harris – Perhaps, to be perfectly equitable in this matter you could reciprocate by telling us how the 54 Bil was spent if it was not lost. If it is all so transparent it shouldn’t be a problem, should it? In fact why not tell us how the whole R800bil was spent?

  • http://www.tincturesite.com andre gadfly

    It is tragic that the whole debate has degraded into mud slinging. Yes, we may not have the correct figures, but the wastage, fraud and theft of government, or taxpayers’ property, is enormous and there is absolutely no one accountable.
    Somehow I believe that it is all about a completely wrong mindset or paradigm: “There is lots more where it came from so don’t worrry”. Furthermore, financial literacy, or the ability to understand that there is a fundamental difference between a thousand, a million and a billion, seems to be absent.
    To make matters worse SCOPA has lost its teeth and although Terence Nombembe criticizes departments for their poor financial management, they really don’t improve from one year to the next. There is absolutely no stigma attached to wasting the taxpayer’s money.
    In our book: Tincture – passing the buck and bucking the system (see http://www.tincturesite.com ) we included a number of tables on waste and corruption (Authors: Andre Gadfly and Peter Smacker). We point to governances that aren’t operational anymore.
    In the end everything boils down to attitude and mindset. Unless the belief starts growing that the state must spend wisely and that the citizens will hold them accountable, we won’t gain much.
    Somewhere (was it in relation to Gareth Cliff’s letter?)the idea was mooted that a proper record should be kept of actual state expenditure against budgeted figures. If such a score sheet is available we won’t have to sling mud.

  • Sue

    Well penned Andre.Unfortunately there are currently no persons nor political party in existence with the power to challenge the government.If there was we would have financial transparency and we would have a thriving country. The DA and COPE are pathetic. We desperately need a new powerful, energetic and fearless opposition party leader. There must be somebody out there.

  • Lesego

    @Dave Harris – Perhaps, to be perfectly equitable in this matter you could reciprocate by telling us how the 54 Bil was spent if it was not lost. If it is all so transparent it shouldn’t be a problem, should it? In fact why not tell us how the whole R800bil was spent?

    X Cepting on October 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    X Cepting, are you for real? How sure are you about the accuracy of the auditor and about the amount allocated? And why do you have so much faith in the reporting? Don’t you think there is some malicious intent by the media? How dare non of you question the integrity of the media when you know very well that they can be consistent liars?