Posted on September 7, 2014
Isabel Schelnack-Kelly, responding to an Archival Platform post on the AGSA's report on local government 2012-2013 says that South African media headlines have been dominated by narratives related to the service delivery protests. The correlation of these narratives and the Office of the Auditor-General reports appear to largely be ignored. In part, this may be attributed to the disregard shown by public offices concerning effective record keeping. The lack of controls taints the evidence required to gauge governance, transparency and accountability.[1] Discontent is further aided by the lack of progressive, proactive engagements from the national and provincial archivists. This is despite the numerous revelations in the Auditor-General reports relating to the management and care of public records. Lack of adequate human and financial resources[2] are the defences presented for adopting the role as passive custodians.

Examining the province of Gauteng, Alex Eliseev, Daily Maverick 5 February 2014, revealed that between December 2013 and February 2014 in Gauteng alone, a 'total of 569 protests', of which '122 turned violent' and with an average of 'six protests a day'.[3] From a province that comprises of three metropolitan municipalities, two district municipalities, seven local municipalities and 26 municipal entities, the following was revealed in the AGSA reports for the financial years, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012: In the 2010-2011 financial year report, the AGSA reported two clean audits for the Johannesburg Civic Theatre and Johannesburg Social Housing Company [4]. In the following financial year, 2011-2012, only the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market and the Johannesburg Social Housing Company, received clean audits.[5]

'Inadequate systems of filing supporting documents to the financial statements,'[6] 'inadequate processes to identify and records expenditure,'[7] 'meter readings ... submitted to the billing department were amended, deleted or replaced in the billing system without supporting evidence,' and 'purchase price of infrastructure assets procured.... could not be confirmed, due to inadequate documentation,'[8] were some of the revelations report. The lack of reliable information to verify financial statements, poor leadership in attaining clean administration, weaknesses in retaining information required to verify compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to local government matters and reporting on service delivery to local communities and other relevant stakeholders.[9]

In 34% of the audit reports related to Gauteng local government entities, poor planning and project management contributed to the failure in meeting planned service delivery targets. The critical importance attached to credible, reliable information in the annual performance reports should be providing the guiding light to the political and administrative leadership on integrated development plans, service delivery and budget implementations in terms of the 'social contract' entered into with the citizens.[10]

Records relating to policies, procedures and decision-making processes appear to be continuously side-lined by the public entities. Consequently, the likelihood that related narratives involving communities and individuals, where efforts are being made to improve their socio-economic circumstances, are relegated to the fire-escapes, stairwells and leaking basements.

The criteria of governance-based evidence, as identified by international financial entities are responsible fiscal management, budgetary transparency, tax administration, participating civil society and accountable public-private partnerships[11]. These criteria depend on accountability and transparency of the public sector.[12] An institution, like the Office of the Auditor-General is fundamental to convince willing contributors to participate in sustainable development undertakings in South Africa.[13] Yet, the lack of information, shuns the importance of transparent, accountable and open government. It further fuels conditions conducive to protests and activism.[14]

South Africa's National Development Plan is proof that the country would like to be perceived as committed to reducing poverty and creating conditions conducive to sustainable development endeavours. The 'bedrock of Vision 2030' is 'to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. We seek a country wherein all citizens have the capabilities to grasp the ever-broadening opportunities available'.[15]

[1] L. Le Roux, 'AGSA records management audit checklist,' Unpublished paper presented at the Annual Auditor-General of South Africa Seminar, Midrand, 7 April 2014.
[2] K. Allan. (ed.) 2009. Paper wars: Access to Information in South Africa. (Johannesburg: Wits University Press), pp. 150-151.
[3] A. Eliseev, 'Bonfires of discontent,' Daily Maverick, dated 5 February 2014.
[4] AGSA. General report on the outcomes of the Gauteng Provincial Government, 2010-2011. (AGSA, Pretoria, 2012), p. 19.
[5] AGSA. General report on the outcomes of the Gauteng Provincial Government, 2011-2012. (AGSA, Pretoria, 2013), pp. 11.
[6] AGSA. General report on Gauteng Provincial Government, 2010-2011, p. 23.
[7] AGSA. General report on Gauteng Provincial Government, 2010-2011, p. 25.
[8] AGSA. General report on Gauteng Provincial Government, 2010-2011, p. 25.
[9] AGSA. General report Gauteng 2011-2012, pp. 11, 13, 16.
[10] AGSA, General report Gauteng 2011-2012, p. 17.
[11] Panos Institute Report No. 45. Reducing Poverty: is the World Bank's strategy working? (Panos Globalisation, London, 2002), pp.8-13.
[12] K. Annan, 'Durable peace and sustainable development in Africa,' South African Archives Journal of International Affairs, 7, 1, 2000, pp. 1-3.
GS. Cloete, 'Governance and transparency in South Africa,' Politeia, 29, 2, 2007, pp. 192-194.
[13] N. Woods, 'The challenge of good governance for the IMF and the World Bank themselves,' World Development, 28, 5, 2000, pp. 823-825.
[14] S. Rose-Ackerman, 'Corruption and government.' International Peacekeeping, 15, 3, 2008, pp. 328-434.
[15 ] Republic of South Africa. Millennium Development Goals. Country Report. Report compiled by the Statistician-General and National Coordinating Committee for the Millennium Development Goals. 2013, p. 2.

Isabel Schelnack-Kelly is a lecturer in the Department of Information Science at Unisa. This post is based on reserach conducted for her doctoral study: IS Schellnack-Kelly. The role of records management in governance-based evidence, service delivery and development in South African communities. Unisa. 2013.