Strong warning to officers to implement audit amendments
Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has issued a stern warning to accounting officers that they face being hit in the pocket hard if they fail to implement his recommendations on corruption in the amended Public Audit Act.
The law is being finalised in Parliament and Makwetu said one of the enforceable measures would be to hit accounting officers with personal costs if they did not act on his recommendations with 12 months.
“You will now face a certificate of debt, which will make you pay a staggering amount of money,” he said. He said the amendment was a powerful tool to prevent irregular expenditure.
The first step would be to give them six months to take action on corruption, but after this his recommendations become binding and the officials have to take action within the next six months.
Amendments to the act are contained in legislation undergoing the final stages in Parliament, and it is expected to be concluded in the House by the end of the month.
Speaking to Independent Media, Makwetu said the amendments to the Public Audit Act would strengthen the powers of his office.
“It will go both ways, where I box in the Public Finance Management Act and Municipal Management Act, where I put the fiduciary responsibility of accounting officers,” he said.
“The message for us is that if you give us extended powers it will allow space to act on accounting officers to follow up on recommendations within six months,” he said.
These measures were intended to reduce ballooning irregular expenditure, which escalated from R11 billion in 2008/2009 to R46.6bn in 2016/17.
Makwetu said irregular expenditure would shoot up to R60bn this year after they had included irregular expenditure incurred by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.
“What we are saying is that as the accounting officer you should have done something in six months. We then say let’s look at what has happened after six months.
“It’s about those material irregularities during the audit. The advantage for us is that we are there every financial year.”
Makwetu said the Public Audit Act as it stood required his office to audit the books of departments and state-owned enterprises, and report.
But the revamped legislation would force heads of departments and directors-general to take action within six months, failing which his recommendations become remedial action.
“If by 12 months that remedial action is not (instituted), that material irregularity will be referred for an investigation,” he said.
They were strengthening the law because officials knew in the past that despite recommendations from him, there were no consequences if they failed to take action.
They simply ignored his recommendations.
This is despite serious findings that are contained in his reports on irregular expenditure.
“No one gets hauled over the coals. Everyone falls in the bandwagon,” he said.
The time that officials could ignore his findings and recommendations was over.
The Sunday Independent