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Addressing the Crisis in Public Accountability: A Call for Urgent Action



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


ADDRESSING THE CRISIS IN PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY: A CALL FOR URGENT ACTION


Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, 29 November 2023 – Today, Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke delivered a sobering assessment of the audit outcomes for the National and Provincial governments for the 2022/23 financial year. While there were some improvements in certain provinces, the overall picture painted by the Auditor General is one of concern and urgency.


Maluleke highlighted a lack of accountability and consequence management by accounting officers, creating a confidence gap among the public regarding the allocation and utilisation of public resources. The report detailed instances of double-dipping, funding overlaps, fraud, and dishonesty by beneficiaries of public programmes such as NSFAS, as well as procurement fraud, off-the-book performance “cures,” inefficiencies, tardiness, and complete non-compliance by auditees.


Of particular concern is the troubling state of entities such as NSFAS, Denel, SAA, SETAs, and Prasa, which lead an inglorious list of delinquent auditees.


Meanwhile, delays and non-delivery of public infrastructure projects have resulted in material irregularities, with a staggering combined harm to the public quantified at R14 billion, of which a paltry R2.5 billion has been recovered.


While there has been some progress in audit outcomes compared to previous years, the shadow of recidivism looms large, underscoring a lack of preventative controls by most auditees. In this challenging landscape, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) stands out as a consistent paragon of good governance and accountability, demonstrated through board stability, succession planning, and clean audits.


Public Interest SA calls for urgent action to address the systemic issues undermining public accountability. The public deserves transparency, responsible financial stewardship, and effective consequence management. Immediate steps must be taken to strengthen preventative controls, enforce accountability, and restore public trust in public institutions.


Integral to enhancing audit outcomes is the imperative of professionalising the audit ecosystem within the government – an issue the Maluleke raised in her previous presentation to the Standing Committe on the Auditor General. Another critical facet of this transformation lies in holding accounting officers personally accountable for the public harm caused by late filing or non-compliance with audit expectations.


“With such poor compliance by perennial delinquents at NSFAS, Denel, SAA, SETAs, and Prasa, designating unyielding accounting officers as delinquent, not too dissimilar to provisions of sections 162(5) or 162(7) of the Companies Act for directors, could serve as an additional instrument in the Auditor General's arsenal for deterrence and for enforcing full and timely compliance,” says Tebogo Khaas, chairperson of Public Interest SA.



ABOUT PUBLIC INTEREST SA

Public Interest SA is a dynamic force dedicated to advancing public accountability and ethical governance in South Africa. Committed to fostering a society founded on transparency and responsible citizenship, we actively engage in initiatives that aim to hold public entities, organisations, and officials accountable for their actions with a central focus on bolstering public trust and accountability.



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