Govt taking AG report seriously: Sisulu

13 March 2013

Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has praised Auditor-General Terence Nombembe following the release of a 2011-12 audit showing a regression in government financial reporting, saying he was helping to lead “a decisive shift towards accountability in the financial matters of the state”.

According to Nombembe’s latest audit, released on Tuesday, only 117 (or 22%) out of a total 536 audited government entities received a clean audit, including only three out of 38 national departments, for 2011-12. This was down from 132 clean audits in 2010-11 and from 152 in 2009-10.

At a packed media briefing in Pretoria, the AG said that his office took comfort in the positive response from the government in its willingness to improve the situation.

‘Good response from ministers, MECs’

“To a large extent what makes us comfortable is the response that we’re receiving in relation to the action that has happened since this report was out. This for us is important. We support the issue of how do we sustain the perfection of basic internal controls.”

Nombembe said the issues raised in the report had been considered during discussions with ministers, provincial premiers and MECs. In the past, he said, it had been difficult to engage “with that layer of government”, but this had changed.

“We’ve learnt of stumbling blocks which have given rise to the regression we’re talking about. We’re at a stage where we know what it is that is keeping us slightly backwards [and] what it is that we need to do to recover from that situation.”

The AG said there was still a need to focus on service delivery, supply chain management and human resource management. “We’re still seeing a need to focus on these areas that required our previous concentration. The issue of service delivery is something whose administration in government still needs to be strengthened.”

Govt ‘taking these issues seriously’

Sisulu, who was also present at Tuesday’s media briefing, congratulated Nombembe on his leadership. “Through his time of stewardship, we’ve seen a decisive shift towards accountability in the financial matters of the state,” Sisulu said, adding that the issues raised in the AG’s report, including the issue of procurement, were being taken seriously.

Recent moves to bolster the public sector’s clean administration drive include the announcement of measures to re-skill public servants on the basics of the Public Finance Management Act, and Sisulu’s announcement that her department would soon introduce legislation banning public servants from doing business with the state.

Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Collins Chabane told Tuesday’s briefing that the AG’s report was consistent with an assessment of 103 departments carried out by his department last year.

The assessment had identified a number of areas that needed improvement, including the use of monitoring and evaluation to inform improvements to policies, programmes and service delivery.

Chabane said his department would carry out these assessments on an annual basis, extending them to all departments in order to provide them with early of their weaknesses and to give them a better understanding of their challenges.

Ministers had been instructed to ensure that their directors-general came up with plans to address challenges identified both by these assessments and in the AG’s reports.

This, Chabane said, would enable the Cabinet to track whether management practices were improving in departments.

SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter