AG Maluleke says new accountability legislation yielding positive results

The Public Audit Act was amended in 2019 to give the Office of the Auditor-General extra powers to personally hold senior government officials accountable for misused public funds.

FILE: Auditor General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke. Picture: @AuditorGen_SA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Auditor-General Tsakane Maluleke said new legislation to enforce accountability within public institutions was yielding positive results.

It followed her release of the scathing audit outcomes on local government and the dire financial state they are in last week.

Maluleke was the keynote speaker at a virtual media briefing facilitated by the South African National Editors’ Forum on Wednesday.

The Public Audit Act was amended in 2019 to give the Office of the Auditor-General extra powers to personally hold senior government officials accountable for misused public funds.

Maluleke said this assisted her office during the last audit of municipalities and their entities for the 2020/2021 financial year.

"What we see is that accounting officers who tend to ignore our audit findings, when they see a matter now being given to them as an MI [material irregularity], they take notice because they understand that there is a prospect of something that's going to hit them in the pocket."

Maluleke said her office had identified fraud and non-compliance resulting in a financial loss estimated at R3.9 billion.

She said the action was taken to address 81% of issues raised after her office issued material irregularities notifications to affected municipalities.

CERTIFICATES OF DEBT
Maluleke said her office was close to issuing certificates of debt to senior officials at several poorly performing municipalities.

The latest audit outcomes of local government have revealed some shocking outcomes more than a quarter of South Africa's municipalities are on the brink of financial collapse due to poor management.

The 2020/2021 local government audit outcomes painted a bleak and dire picture of the country’s municipalities – with just 41 out of South Africa's 247 municipalities receiving clean audits.

The Auditor-General said the Public Audit Act has assisted her office in getting answers from accounting officers in areas where it was previously difficult to do so.

"The big win that we all make is ultimately for accounting officers to take responsibility for the things that they must and to act within the authority that they have to safeguard institutions."

Maluleke has called on oversight bodies, including the municipal council and civil society, to play their role by ensuring that public funds are used appropriately and those that misuse public funds be held accountable.