Cape Town - The Auditor General's office on Wednesday named and shamed departments guilty of irregular expenditure in the last financial year, with defence being the worst offender.
That department racked up more than R1bn in irregular expenditure, accounting for 43% of the government's total bill of irregular expenditure of just under R3.9bn in 2009/10.
Kevish Lashman, a business executive in the AG's office, told MPs the department of justice was second on the list with R805m, followed by the department of home affairs with R321m.
In total, government departments accumulated R2.3bn in irregular expenditure.
Almost half of that was due to supply chain management irregularities, Lashman said in a briefing to the portfolio committee on public service and administration.
The presidency was guilty of just under R1m in irregular expenditure, but had the dubious distinction of featuring in all five categories of flawed tender and contract management specified in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
These ranged from failing to invite three price quotations for awarding contracts to suppliers who failed to provide valid tax clearance certificates.
Kevish said 61 public entities made themselves guilty of a total of R1 589m in irregular expenditure in the last financial year.
Here the three worst offenders were the Road Traffic Management Corporation with R360m, the National Prosecuting Authority with R273m and the Property Management Trading Entity with R264m.
The State Information Technology Agency accumulated R214m in irregular expenditure, and Cipro R95m. In both cases the full amount was attributed to flawed procurement.
The department of trade and industry in July cancelled Cipro's controversial contract with ValorIT for an enterprise content management system due to serious allegations of tender fraud.
MPs described the figures cited by Lashman as "vast" and "frightening".
Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi
said the government was committed to rooting out corruption and breaches of the PFMA.
It hoped to combat tender fraud in particular by placing all procurement on a central electronic database, so that it could be accessed and scrutinised "at the click of a button", he added.
The minister rejected as alarmist a remark by the Democratic Alliance's Anchen Dreyer
that the AG's figures were proof that the "wholesale looting" of state resources had placed South Africa on the brink of becoming a failed state.
Dreyer said the country did not need more anti-corruption units and regulations, but for those already in place to yield results.
In a debate on corruption in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
said the perception that government lacked the political will to tackle it was false.