Light at the end of tunnel as government shows improved audit outcomes

Auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke released audit outcomes for national and provincial government departments in 2019/20 on Wednesday. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Is President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption stance beginning to bear fruit in the accounting on public funds?

That is the question after an improvement in the submission of credible financial information in provincial and national government departments and entities in the 2019/20 financial year.

More than 50% of government departments and state entities submitted credible financial information in the year under review.

This was announced by the auditor-general, Tsakani Maluleke, during her presentation of audit outcomes in Pretoria.

Seventeen percent of the auditees achieved a clean audit, while 40% scored unqualified audit opinions.

There was a decrease in disclaimer audit opinions and qualified audit opinions over the same period.

Overall, said Maluleke, 57% of the total expenditure budget in the 2019/20 financial year was spent by government entities that were “able to present credible financial information”.

“The outcomes indicate that we have seen a slight increase in the number of clean audits. A clean audit is that audit outcome where there has been evidence of credible financial information and reliable performance information and having no adverse finding on compliance matters,” she said.

“The clean audits, there could have been more. But we know it is harder to keep a clean audit than to get it. To keep a clean audit one of the key pillars is about stable management to drive decisive internal control measures and applying consequences when things go wrong and fix on an ongoing basis.”

Another positive in these audit outcomes was the reduction of irregular expenditure from R66bn to R54.3bn.

But Maluleke said this was not to be celebrated because 31% of auditees, totalling 118 entities, “were not disclosing their irregular expenditure” because of doubt about completeness of what they declared.

“There is absolutely no reason to celebrate.”

Maluleke expressed a number of concerns, particularly about supply chain management and procurement of goods and services in the public sector.

Among these was the ongoing concern about public servants who do business with the state while they are conflicted.

She said there were instances were documentation supporting transactions amounting to billions of rand could not be found.

“When we did the real time audits last year and we looked at transactions three months  after the fact, there were instances where transactions have gone through the books and banks accounts but we cannot find the documentation to confirm how the tender was awarded.

“That tells you that something is wrong. This has been the feature across our audits over a number of years, it is an indicator of weaknesses in accountability which we must push back against.”

by Auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke released audit outcomes for national and provincial government departments in 2019/20 on Wednesday.

File photo. Image: Freddy Mavunda

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