20 January 2011
South Africa’s Auditor-General is to begin conducting quarterly reviews of government departments, focusing on problem areas identified in preceding reviews, in order to give early warning signs of any financial trouble in the public sphere.
This will be the first time that quarterly financial reviews are carried out; up until now, reviews have been carried out once a year.
“Quarterly reviews will help to give us earlier warning of whether the action plans are being taken care of,” Auditor-General Terence Nombembe said in Pretoria on Wednesday.
He was briefing the media on how South Africa’s national and provincial government departments performed in the 2009-10 financial year. While there was a move towards clean audits, Nombembe said, qualified audits still continued.
Areas for improvement
The 2009-10 General Report on National Audit Outcomes identified R831-million in irregular expenditure by government departments, as well as wasteful expenditure while 58 public entities.
Nombembe said the country’s movement towards unqualified reports was being constrained both by compliance with laws and regulations (with contraventions happening in the course of regular expenditure), as well as by lack of effective reporting on service delivery issues.
“We need to see improvements in the way things are reported … [and] how strategic plans are carried out,” Nombembe said, adding that issues around management of assets, particularly immovable assets like land, also needed improvement.
The Auditor-General also expressed concern at the quality of leadership monitoring and human resource management in government departments, including their reliance on consultants.
Departments should also encourage better document management, as well as a proper understanding of information flow.
“These issues sound elementary, but they [hold] us back,” the Auditor-General said.