AG needs pow­ers with bite

CityPress - - Voices -

Shock, anger and dis­ap­point­ment have be­come syn­ony­mous with the an­nual re­lease of au­dit out­comes of na­tional and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and state-owned com­pa­nies.

This week was no ex­cep­tion when Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Kimi Mak­wetu re­vealed that waste­ful and ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture had jumped by 80% to R46.36 bil­lion for the year to March. Of the 484 en­ti­ties au­dited, 152 re­ceived clean au­dits and a con­cern was that 32 oth­ers, which had ob­tained clean au­dits the year be­fore, re­gressed this time around.

For years, the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s of­fice has pointed out the ba­sic things de­part­ments and en­ti­ties should do to achieve pos­i­tive out­comes. Th­ese in­clude im­prov­ing fi­nan­cial con­trols; ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship and mon­i­tor­ing achieve­ment of per­for­mance tar­gets; and re­view­ing and mon­i­tor­ing com­pli­ance with key laws and leg­is­la­tion over fi­nan­cial mat­ters.

Mak­wetu said: “Had th­ese sim­ple ac­tions, aimed at im­prov­ing in­ter­nal con­trol sys­tems and elim­i­nat­ing gov­er­nance risks and other con­cerns raised by our of­fice, been im­ple­mented with re­lent­less vigour, we would be re­port­ing muchim­proved au­dit re­sults to­day.”

The lack of in­ter­est by those in lead­er­ship of those de­part­ments and en­ti­ties to heed Mak­wetu’s call gives cre­dence to pro­pos­als that the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral be given more teeth.

Cur­rently, the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s re­port is a rec­om­men­da­tion for those au­dited in­sti­tu­tions to use as a guide­line. Rec­om­men­da­tions are not bind­ing and this has cre­ated the prob­lem where those au­dited con­tinue to act with im­punity.

Said Mak­wetu: “This ef­fort has not had the de­sired im­pact of dis­cour­ag­ing unau­tho­rised, ir­reg­u­lar, fruit­less and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture, as well as fraud and im­proper con­duct.”

ANC MP Vin­cent Smith, who chairs Par­lia­ment’s com­mit­tee that over­sees the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral, said they were con­cerned about the slow re­sponses to the rec­om­men­da­tions, adding that there was a need to in­ves­ti­gate the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s pow­ers and see if they could not be strength­ened like those of other chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions.

For­tu­nately, Par­lia­ment is em­pow­ered to tighten those pow­ers and that time has come. Oth­er­wise, the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral will sound like a bro­ken record.

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