Source: Ncube promises to get tough – The Standard December 15, 2019
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has proposed reducing allocations for ministries that fail to account for money given to them in the national budget.
Ncube was responding to questions from MPs in the National Assembly last week where he was asked why he kept giving government departments money that they failed to account for.
Every year the auditor-general Mildred Chiri produces reports showing how government departments are failing to account for money allocated to them by Treasury.
“In terms of budgeting in my previous job we used to cut back on budgets for departments that did not account in full on how they had used resources or badly used resources because we had a performance-based budgeting process.
But in a sense, this is what we have migrated to,” Ncube said.
“It is a performance-based budget and unfortunately, I do not think that we can do it immediately but over time we should be able to say on this specific programme, you underperformed or abused funds, therefore, why should we give you additional resources but we should cut back.
“So, it is my hope that this format of the Blue Book will help the honourable members to interrogate the departments more precisely about budget performance and about output impact.”
He added: We hope that this new approach will help us get there but we are not yet there unfortunately”.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa asked whether Ncube was comfortable allocating money to departments that were often found to be flouting regulations during audits.
Mliswa asked: “Why do we continuously give money to ministries yet they do not account and there are bad audit reports from the auditor-general’s office. How comfortable are you with that?”
The auditor-general’s reports show how government ministries and state enterprises do not account for the funds allocated by Treasury.
This has prejudiced the state of billions of dollars over the years and the government has been criticised for failing to take action based on the reports.
Meanwhile, Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure asked Ncube to increase the budget allocation to the auditor general’s office to improve its efficiency.
“If you look at the staff complement of the auditor-general’s office against their responsibility, the office now audits all the local authorities, parastatals and government institutions,” Madzimure said.
“If we look at the complement and try to match it with the responsibility, it does not add up.
“The biggest problem is also that the auditor-general’s office has been doing quite well and because of that a lot of organisations now use it as a training ground,” he said.
“They are losing a lot of experienced auditors, as a result, we end up now giving contracts to other audit firms to do forensic audits on behalf of the auditor general.
“If we look at how much we pay those companies as compared to if we could have used the skills that we have in the auditor-general’s office, we could do a lot of saving.”
The MP said the government must consider improving conditions of service for its auditors.
“The auditor-general has indicated to us how much money we lose. If we can allow the auditor general to retain some funds on the amounts they recover, that will help a lot,” he said.
“My submission is that the auditor-general’s office must be capacitated, well-funded and must have that compliment that can perform the duties expected of that office.”
The government is working on the establishment of a central coordinating unit for the internal audit and compliance function, within Treasury, as a measure for enhancing internal audit systems control.