Auditor General Needs To Plug Loopholes In State Spending
We are fortunate that we have the Office of the Auditor General which is entrusted with the task of monitoring and reporting on spending of public funds at all state institutions.
Whilst most government departments have their own internal control measures in place to ensure compliance with legislation such as the Public Management Finance Act, the Municipal Finance Management Act and Supply Chain Management, these departments cannot be relied upon as they are considered to be player and referee. This is where the Auditor General has a crucial role to play in ensuring prudent spending of state funds for the benefit of our people
There have been many cases where provincial government departments and municipalities have displayed weak and/or non-existent control measures in monitoring their spending but have still received clean audits from the Auditor General.
This is possible because of loopholes in the control measures coupled with grey areas in legislation that can be exploited by those seeking to defraud the state. Auditing staff from the AG’s office are not able to easily pick up certain devious trends that exist. Such instances can be found for example at municipal level where services are procured and paid for using public funds but only a certain portion of the service is utilised for municipal purposes while the balance is set aside, through collusion with the service provider and used at a later stage for the benefit of the political party in charge of that municipality. Since all documentation are available to the auditors, the AG will issue a clean audit report to that municipality.
Another example is that of the KZN Treasury where President Jacob Zuma had called for the SIU to investigate the abuse of tax payers' money on projects like the International North Sea Jazz Festival that never took place, Commemorating Prisoners of War - St Helena event and the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. These investigations involve millions of rand and there has never been a progress report but the KZN Treasury has received a clean audit report.
We can also quote the case of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) which has been given clean audits for the past nine years but recently the Public Protector’s report titled “Derailed” has highlighted serious discrepancies at that Agency.
We, as an opposition party pick up such serious wastage of public funds and irregularities which we expose in portfolio committees as well as in the KZN Legislature but the ruling party feels vindicated when the AG gives those entities and departments clean audits.
It would be prudent for the Office of the AG to devise ways of plugging such loopholes that result in the wastage of public funds.
Issued by: Mr Blessed Gwala, IFP Leader in the KZN Legislature