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Makwetu welcomes 'bigger stick' to crack down on irregular state spending

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has welcomed the signing into law of a bill that gives him substantial new powers to crack down on irregular and wasteful spending by the state.

FILE: Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has welcomed the signing into law of a bill that gives him substantial new powers to crack down on irregular and wasteful spending by the state.

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave his assent to the Public Audit Act Amendment Bill on Sunday and it was gazetted on Tuesday.

While a date for implementation has yet to be set, Makwetu told Parliament's standing committee on the Auditor-General that the regulations that will underpin the new law have already been drawn up.

Makwetu has long lamented the lack of consequences for those who play fast and loose with public funds. Now he has bite to back up his bark.

The Public Audit Amendment Act provides for serious audit irregularities to be referred for further investigation and the AG can order binding remedial action, including the recovery of lost funds.

If accounting officers or authorities such as state-owned entity boards fail to implement the remedial action, he can issue a certificate of debt and an instruction that the money be recovered from those self-same director-generals and board members.

“Ultimately for us, the winning formula here for us is if we can succeed in discouraging somebody from ignoring irregular expenditure, that’s a win. We don’t have to get to a certificate of debt. But if you don’t want to listen, and you constantly get prodded to fix these things and you don’t, then you are actually putting yourself at risk of having to face a certificate of debt.

“So there’s a lot of persuasion still here, but it’s a persuasion that now comes with a bigger stick.”

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)

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