FS audit ends up in tug of war

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The auditing of the Free State government departments ended in a tug of war when the province declared several disputes about the audit findings. This is according to the Auditor General’s (AG) consolidated report that was tabled in parliament last week. According to the, report, the auditing teams experienced “immense resistance” from auditees as leadership – advised by state law advisers – argued that “payments cease to be public funds once transferred to implementing agencies”.
Under dispute were also instances where government departments deviated from tender processes. The provincial government argued – with the help of the State Law Advisors – that once money was transferred to these agents, it ceased to be public funds and thus falls outside the AG’s jurisdiction. This, AG Kimi Makwetu said, placed “undue pressure” on the audit teams not to audit a number of transactions involving implementing agents or where deviations from normal tender procedures were approved. But the provincial government released a statement saying Free State Premier, Ace Magashule, and his MECs were not responsible for the “immense resistance” that the AG’s auditing team experienced.
The AG’s consolidated report for the 2015/16 financial year that was tabled in parliament earlier this week said its auditing team experienced “immense pressure” by auditees to audit findings raised as leadership, advised by state law advisers, argued that payments to implementing agents ceased to be public funds once transferred, thus falling outside the AGSA mandate. Now the provincial government denied that Premier Ace Magashule and his cabinet were the reason for the resistance. The statement further reads that the paragraph in which the AG addresses the “resistance”, he refers to the actual departments – headed by the Accounting Officers – that were audited and not the premier. It further states that the audit committees of four departments did not accept the report of the Auditor General and the accounting officers then declared disputes on the audit outcomes. “The audit process of the 2015/16 financial year was characterised by rigorous engagements between provincial auditees and the Office of the Auditor General,” reads the statement.
Former Free State MEC and leader of the Mangaung Community Development Front, a community-based organisation, Sekhopi Malebo, however, condemned the statement. “I find it very strange that the political managers (MECs) of our province would like to disassociate themselves from when things are happening in such a bad way. When there are clean audits they are the first to pat themselves on the back and if they can claim responsibility and ownership for the clean audit, so should they when audits are indicating the worst,” Malebo said.
DA MPL, David van Vuuren, said the dispute between the provincial government and the auditing team of the Auditor General (AG) involves millions paid out by the already cash-strapped Education Department. “I think there are a lot of red lights going on in this regard and we are talking about a lot of money. That department and its political head, the MEC, are being held accountable. They must explain where the money is going,” said Van Vuuren.
EFF MPL, Kgotso Morapela, said his party has been maintaining that “Magashule runs the province like it is his own household”. He said as political heads the provincial cabinet must take responsibility and not just pass the buck.
The AG report shows that the Free State is in a huge financial crisis, especially with regard to financial health and compliance to laws and regulations,” he said. –  Cathy Dlodlo 
cathy@centralmediagroup.co.za