Government officials and politicians will no longer have the ability to feign ignorance about the measures that should have been taken to prevent financial mismanagement and corruption, after auditor-general Kimi Makwetu released specific guidelines on this on Wednesday.
Corruption and financial mismanagement is a major issue in SA, as has been most notably seen in the recent scandal surrounding procurement related to personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for SA’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as irregularities identified in the most significant financial relief measures.
Over the years there has also been little adherence to legislation that ensures government finances are soundly managed, while oversight has been sorely lacking.
Makwetu, who finishes his term later this year, has been at pains over the years to emphasise that a strong control environment and specific processes are the key to achieving objectives, addressing risks, ensuring compliance with legislation, and managing public-sector funds to the benefit of citizens.
On Wednesday, he launched six new guidelines on preventive controls to support oversight structures, accounting officers and authorities, and executive authorities to remedy governance lapses and weaknesses.
He said the launch of the guidelines comes as the rest of SA is crying foul over the misuse of the resources that are so desperately needed.
“Hence this attempt to put these guides together to make sure that nobody can turn around and say, ‘I did not know,’” he said.
Makwetu said if the preventive controls work properly, they will ensure that less money is spent on having to determine where things went wrong, as well as on law enforcement.
“Prevention is so much better than healing, as it saves the labour of being sick,” he said, adding that the guidelines are about making the country stronger, not putting in place new systems.
National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane said despite good governance and sound public financial management being universal tenets, corruption continues to be one of the greatest obstacles to development worldwide.
“Both locally and internationally, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it twin afflictions of widespread illness and gross corruption. For both Covid-19 and corruption, prevention is the cure,” said Mogajane.
Even the most successful law enforcement agencies can only be effected after the crime has been committed, he said. By then the damaging consequences of corruption have already taken place.
The preventive control guidelines will add substantially to the instructions and reporting measures the Treasury has taken, he said, by supporting accounting officers and executive authorities to prevent the corrosion of corruption taking hold, as well as assisting them in exercising their obligations in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Mogajane called on all sectors of society to join the battle against corruption.
“There is both a supply and demand side to corruption. Unless efforts are made on both sides, we will not triumph – corruption will continue to limit our development and prevent us from reaching our full potential.”