11 October 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Johan Roux
JN Boshoff Memorial lecture
From left: Prof Hendri Kroukamp (Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Science), Prof Puleng LenkaBula (Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement), Kimi Makwetu (Auditor-General South Africa), and Dr Lyndon du Plessis (Head of the Department of Public Administration and Management).

It is reported R390 billion in irregular expenditure has been accumulated over the past 10 years since the 2008-09 financial year. Local government has experienced an upward trend from R3 billion to R21 billion, while an increase from R1 billion to R51 billion has been seen at provincial government level.

Fixing the crisis 

South Africa’s global credit quality has deteriorated as a result of poor financial performance.  This is evidenced by the numerous downgrades from Moody’s over the past few years. The Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu proposes that accountability has the potential to resolve the issue.

Makwetu presented this year’s JN Boshoff Memorial Lecture titled: Accountability as a basis for service delivery and economic growth at the University of the Free State’s Bloemfontein Campus on Wednesday 9 October 2019. 

“The whole idea of accountability as a basis for service delivery and economic growth is a pursuit that needs to be tackled from different angles because auditors are not going to succeed if the tone at the top in the institutions is not at the right place.”

Auditing irregularities remain a cause for concern 
The Auditor-General referred to auditing irregularities as an imbalance between people, money, and material. He alluded to the need to “narrow the space for the abuse of public resources” by escalating the level of preventive controls so that materials are paid for and delivered. The Amendment Act becomes instrumental in achieving this.

President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed 1 April 2019 as the official commencement date of the Public Audit Amendment Act (Act No. 5 of 2018) which introduced new mechanisms to ensure that audit findings are properly addressed and recommendations are implemented.  The Act is a tool to root out material irregularities such as fraud, theft, non-compliance with or contravention of legislation, or a breach of a fiduciary duty.

Expanding the scope of auditors

The Act empowers auditors to enforce accountability in the form of referring irregularities to public bodies for further investigation, recommending binding remedial actions, and issuing certificates of debt.

According to Makwetu accountability means that citizens’ rights to service delivery are respected. “Improved accountability speaks directly to the government’s ability to appropriately manage public resources to the benefit of the citizens they serve. It created a solid foundation for service delivery to take place and for the citizens to tangibly experience and feel the vision set by the constitution.” 

For service delivery and economic growth to manifest, accountability in the public sector needs to become second nature. The role of auditors in ensuring this shift is therefore of utmost importance.

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