Auditor-general bemoans national and provincial audit outcomes
On Wednesday, auditor-general Kimi Makwetu bemoaned the lack of internal controls in many government departments, saying it was the main reason for the regression of audit outcomes in the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
SowetanLIVE's sister publication BusinessLIVE reported that Makwetu released the report on the national and provincial government audit outcomes for 2018/2019 at a media briefing on Wednesday. He said the audit results were “disappointing” and called on government leaders to take urgent action to halt the trend, restore accountability, and prevent mismanagement of public funds.
His report identifies lapses in governance and failures in basic internal controls.
Irregular expenditure by national and provincial departments climbed 23% to R62.6bn in the 2018/2019 financial year, from R51bn the previous year. While unauthorised expenditure decreased by 23%, it remained high at R1.4bn and this figure could increase by R281m once outstanding audits are taken into account.
A total of 223 audited departments lost R849m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, though this figure could also increase by R758m if outstanding audits are taken into account. Over the past five years, fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounted to R4.2bn.
The amount of irregular expenditure could be even higher, as about a third of the audited departments received qualified audits, as the amount disclosed was incomplete, or it was disclosed that they had incurred irregular expenditure but that the full amount was unknown. In addition, the auditor-general’s office could not audit R2.33bn worth of contracts due to missing or incomplete information.
Irregular expenditure is expenditure that does not comply with legislation, for example, on supply chain management.
Makwetu said there has been “slow progress” over the past five financial years, which he attributes to the slow implementation — or the total disregard — of audit recommendations made by his office. This meant there was no improvement in audit outcomes for the fiscal year audited. He added that there are serious weaknesses in financial management at both national and provincial government that has not been addressed in the past five years.
Makwetu said the executive authorities and oversight structures in government do not lead by example in setting the correct tone to “enable accountability, transparency and good governance”.
Only 26% of auditees received clean audits.
Overall, the audit outcomes have regressed since 2014/2015, with 80 auditees improving and 91 moving backwards. Included in the report are national and provincial governments, which consist of 432 auditees, including several state owned enterprises (SOEs).
He highlighted an emerging risk of increased litigation and claims against departments. More than a third of the departments have claims against them of more than 10% of their next year’s budget.
Financial health improvement
Makwetu said, however, that the financial health of auditees in most provinces either improved or remained unchanged for the period under review. The Western Cape continued to produce the best results; KwaZulu-Natal and North West remained unchanged; Eastern Cape and Limpopo progressed; and Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Gauteng regressed.
“The overall disregard for financial management laws and regulations is pervasive,” Makwetu said about provincial audit outcomes.
The results of SOEs continued to regress, with none of them managing to obtain a clean audit report. Makwetu noted that the financial health of SOEs “remained under significant pressure” and there is significant doubt whether some of them can continue with their operations in future without financial assistance.
They disclosed R1.4bn in irregular expenditure and the figure could be even higher as the financial statements of four SOEs were qualified on the completeness of their irregular expenditure. The irregular expenditure of the SOEs the auditor-general did not audit amounted to R57bn, which included R49.9bn at Transnet and R6.6bn at Eskom.