These are the biggest money wasters in government

The Auditor General of South Africa has published his annual audit outcomes report, showing how the country’s government entities have racked up a wasteful and irregular expenditure bill exceeding R51 billion.

This figure doesn’t include South Africa’s two biggest money wasters – Eskom and Transnet – which have amassed a combined R28 billion. Both companies have their auditing done by private firms.

As part of the Auditor General’s report, a spreadsheet with all the audit outcomes was also released, showing the values attached to wasteful and irregular expenditure across hundreds of government entities.

According to the AG, the departments of education, health and public works that are responsible for just over half of the departmental budgets and for implementing key programmes to improve the health and welfare of citizens, continued to have the poorest outcomes of all departments.

“The financial health of the provincial departments of health and education needs urgent intervention to prevent the collapse of these key service delivery departments. In comparison with other departments, these sectors were in a bad state,” the Auditor General said.

The unauthorised expenditure by provincial education departments stood at almost R1 billion and the deficit incurred by the Eastern Cape department alone was R1.7 billion.

The Free State department was in a particularly vulnerable position, having already spent 78% of its 2018-19 operating expenditure budget in 2017-18.

Looking at the data provided by the AG, combined – across all education and health audits – irregular expenditure exceeded R3.8 billion and R5 billion for each department, respectively.

It is also clear that water and sanitation is failing to keep a lid on its rampant spending.

The tables below outline the worst culprits when it comes to unauthorised, irregular and wasteful spending – including which are the worst when taking all three categories combined.


Unauthorised expenditure

This is expenditure that results in overspending of a budget vote or expenditure that is made not in accordance with the purpose of a budget vote. The AG’s data shows that unauthorised spending totalled R2.12 billion across all audits.

The worst 10 culprits – which account for 97% of this total – are listed below.

Department/Entity Unauthorised expenditure
Education* R989.5 million
Water and Sanitation R485.9 million
Health* R275.1 million
Police, Roads and Transport R241.2 million
Statistics South Africa R57.3 million
Human Settlements R17.5 million
COGTA R7.8 million
Provincial Legislature R5.9 million
Culture, Sports and Recreation R2.7 million
Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs R1.2 million

* Combination of multiple data entries


Irregular expenditure

The AG’s data showed that irregular expenditure totalled R74.4 billion across all audits.

The worst 10 culprits – which account for 66% of this total – are listed below.

Department/Entity Irregular expenditure
Eskom R19 609 million
Transnet R8 123 million
Transport R5 483 million
Health* R5 052 million
Water Trading Entity R4 567 million
Education* R3 835 million
Roads and Transport R2 086 million
Water and Sanitation R1 978 million
Correctional Services R1 897 million
Police, Roads and Transport R1 631 million

* Combination of multiple data entries


Fruitless and Wasteful expenditure

Fruitless and wasteful expenditure is expenditure which was made in vain and would have been avoided had reasonable care been exercised. The AG’s data showed that wasteful spending totalled R2.6 billion across all audits.

The worst 10 culprits – which account for 85% of this total – are listed below.

Department/Entity Wasteful expenditure
Water Trading Entity R1 022 million
Defence R399 million
Education* R196 million
Roads and Transport R148 million
Eskom R143 million
SABC R84 million
National Treasury R67 million
Health*  R53 million
Justice and Constitutional Development R48 million
Correctional Services R41 million

* Combination of multiple data entries


Biggest wasters

The worst 10 culprits – which account for 71% of this total – are listed below.

Department/Entity Total unauthorised, irregular and wasteful expenditure
Eskom R19 752 million
Transnet R8 147 million
Water Trading Entity R5 589 million
Transport R5 483 million
Health* R5 472 million
Education* R3 433 million
Water and Sanitation R2 516 million
Roads and Transport R2 235 million
Correctional Services R1 938 million
Police, Roads and Transport R1 874 million

* Combination of multiple data entries


Read: Government departments rack up R51 billion in irregular expenditure

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These are the biggest money wasters in government