‘Track every single cent’
MPs must play key role in picking up irregular expenditure, says auditor-general
AUDITOR-General Kimi Makwetu will meet President Cyril Ramaphosa this week to discuss issues affecting his work and the regulations on the Public Audit Act to rein in officials responsible for irregular expenditure.
Makwetu said the new powers given to him by the act would go a long way in addressing issues of consequences. This has been a stumbling block in dealing with officials responsible for irregular expenditure.
The standing committee on the auditor-general is finalising the regulations on the act and the regulations will clarify exactly what would happen. The committee wants Parliament to approve the regulations before the House rises in the next two weeks. However, Ramaphosa will announce the implementation date of the act.
Makwetu said he also wanted MPs to begin scrutinising the books of departments and entities every quarter to avoid the rise in irregular expenditure. Makwetu, who has revealed in his latest audit outcomes to departments at national and provincial levels that irregular expenditure had increased from R45.6 billion to R51bn, said MPs had a key role in their oversight function to pick up irregular expenditure early in the year. This would avoid members of Parliament picking up the problems after the end of the financial year when the books have already been closed and irregularities, malfeasance and corruption had happened. In his report, Makwetu found that there was non-compliance with supply chain management.
The auditor-general said he was not able to audit R6.5bn of procurement due to missing documents or incomplete information. The standing committee on public accounts has said procurement is where there is a lot of corruption taking place.
In the report the Makwetu also found R265 million in contracts had been awarded to officials and politicians without following tender processes. In 56% of the departments and entities he audited there was unfair and uncompetitive bidding.
Makwetu, who was speaking to Independent Media in his offices in Cape Town, said the situation can be improved to avoid the escalation of irregular expenditure.
“We have put our story on the table where we said regardless of the issues threatening people, what is important is to constantly assess people managing these finances. Is it not better to tighten these screws of oversight in in-year processes? If somebody comes to Parliament with the second quarter report (we must check) how far are you with your expenditure,” said Makwetu.
He said this would be one area where MPs would cut out the rise in irregular expenditure because they would track each and every cent spent in every single quarter.
MPs must ask officials if they know how much has been allocated at the beginning of the financial year. “If the portfolio committee knows of significant projects it needs to put in motion those oversight mechanisms. If there is the flouting of supply chain procedures those would lead to irregular expenditure, the portfolio committees need to monitor that,” said Makwetu.
Another question to be asked, is when departments and entities would spend 80% of their budgets during the first six months of the year. He said these were questions needed to be probed to get to the bottom of irregular expenditure and rein in the officials responsible for it.
However, Makwetu said when he audits the books for the current financial year, which ends next year March, the Public Audit Act will be in full swing.