Brentwood Park resident Kagiso Lerutla was recently appointed as the new chief financial officer (CFO) of the Ekurhuleni metro. A qualified chartered accountant and the metro’s youngest CFO, he will oversee municipal coffers worth around R50-billion. Lerutla said his key responsibility within the metro is to be transparent, generate clean audits, and restore trust.
Do you think your age is an advantage in this post?
Yes, my appointment is a generational victory for the youth. I have been given an opportunity to serve in a critical, strategic position which comes with a lot of expectation.
The challenge is to make sure I deliver as a good foundation to other young officials in the future. Fortunately, I have a good support structure. I understand how important the working relationship is between my office and the metro and I have good support from the members of the mayoral committee.
How have your first few weeks in office been?
Very hectic. Working in local government is always time demanding, but I am adjusting. I was in an acting position for seven months before I was appointed, so I am at least familiar with the responsibilities.
Why do you think you are in a position to succeed?
I have been in the metro’s finance department for over five years and within that time I have performed various responsibilities at a senior level, which makes me better equipped in terms of knowledge.
Working in government is highly regulated and you need someone that understands legislation and the workings of local government. I am familiar with the challenges the metro faces which puts me in a better position to succeed.
Describe yourself and your leadership skills
I am performance driven, a team player and I work well with all the heads of department. We support each other. I demand performance and I believe the citizens of Ekurhuleni deserve the best. I also want to instil integrity so that citizens can sleep at night knowing that their money will be spent on things that deliver value for them.
What are you hoping to achieve as the CFO?
We want to affirm ourselves in terms of clean audits, to indicate that we are the best and to increase the level of confidence the community has in the metro. I will do my best to adhere to the legislature and continue to give the best audit results with the correct credit ratings.
I want to assist in creating an environment where the metro is financially sustainable. We want to develop a process to deal with revenue income so that we can alleviate the burden on residents. We are looking into other revenue-generating avenues for the metro to assist residents.
How will you improve the relationship between the metro and its residents?
A relationship between the metro and residents is fundamental for us. There is a perception that the government is corrupt, but we want to change this by being a government that listens to its people and is held accountable.
What is your view on the theme “Building a local economy that grows in the hands of the people”?
It is important because the budget is centred on helping the community at large. The budget must work for the people and they should benefit from it.
How much irregular expenditure have you noticed within the metro? Has this been registered and were actions taken against officials?
In terms of the latest financial statement audited, we had an irregular expenditure of around R200-million, which represents about a 40 per cent decrease compared to the previous year, where we were sitting slightly towards R500-m.
In terms of the legislature, irregular expenditure is supposed to go to a council group oversight committee, where they are tasked to check all instances of irregular expenditure and report to council in terms of what needs to be done.
People should also be educated and informed that irregular expenditure is not necessarily unlawful. Only in instances where we can see that officials tried by all means to deviate from the normal policies will they be recommended for consequence management, namely disciplinary processes.
What is your plan to reduce irregular expenditure?
Officials and project managers have been trained and we ensure our processes are robust and open to public scrutiny. We have also informed the HODs that we require a clean audit and zero irregular expenditure. This demand is set out in their performance contracts and if they do not meet this they will not receive bonuses.
We have done well to raise awareness compared to other municipalities. Ekurhuleni is the best in Gauteng because we have little irregular expenditure, along with a strong internal audit.
What are your views on ‘transparent government?’
Being transparent is the only way we can gain the people’s trust and assure them we are doing the right thing. It will show them we are an institution of integrity if they see and understand what we are doing. We urge residents to attend our monthly council and special meetings. We believe in transparency and the first thing we need to invest in is the community’s understanding of what is happening in finance.
How important is the input of the community when it comes to the budget?
The input of the community is vital in any process. A budget cannot be passed without the community’s participation as it is their budget and is based on the principle that we have to engage with them on financial sustainability and availability. We cannot pass something that affects them without having their input. We promote public participation as it drives our municipal budget.
How solvent is the municipality? Do we have enough funds to pay our debt for the next three months?
Yes, we are financially sustainable. We have received the best credit rating in Gauteng for two consecutive financial years. Moody’s have given us this credit record and it demonstrates our ability in terms of cash management.
The metro is solvent and residents can be assured that our finances are safe guarded and used where they should be used. We do not have any cash challenges and our collection rate proves this – we collect about 94 per cent of monies owed to the metro.
We appreciate and are thankful to the residents of Ekurhuleni because their payments assist the financial system within the metro.
This interview first appeared on the Benoni City Times website