PARLIAMENT has urged government to fully capacitate the Auditor-General’s office by committing at least 1% of the 2023 national budget towards its operations so that it can operate as an independent institution.
However, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated $9,9 billion against a bid of $25,3 billion to AG’s office for 2023, which translated to 0,6% of the national budget.
The 2023 budget was passed by Parliament last week without any significant changes to allocations.
A post-budget report by the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) said AG’s office was paramount as it scrutinised the effectiveness of government financial systems, and the level of compliance with financial policies and guidelines.
The audit office’s annual audit reports of government departments, State enterprises and parastatals have exposed gross corruption and failure to follow procurement procedures, resulting in billions of dollars being lost to graft.
Legislators said under-funding could compromise its effectiveness to carry out its oversight function.
“The independence of the audit office is partly guaranteed by enabling it to perform its mandate fully and this is achievable if adequate resources are made available. It should be noted that audit offices, the world over, have a responsibility of assisting governments to better manage scarce public resources in a transparent manner and to achieve their set objectives,” the Pac report said.
“Our audit office has performed well in the past and deserves the necessary budgetary support to help it keep on fulfilling its constitutional mandate.”
Legislators said throughout the Pac’s analysis of the AG’s reports, it had noted with concern that there was low coverage by the audit office due to lack of resources.
“The Auditor-General has attributed the low coverage to financial constraints — and in some cases other challenges such as the COVID-19-induced restrictions. In her submission, the Auditor-General pointed out that some foreign stations and embassies had gone for many years without being audited.
“Failure to audit the missions and embassies presents great risks to public finance management asaudits give reasonable assurances that either systems, processes, procedures or controls are working; and if not, remedies are recommended,” Pac said.