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Auditor General gets more teeth to fight financial irregularities at public entities

Nov 21 2018 17:24
Sarah Evans

The office of the Auditor General of South Africa will soon be able to hold government officials responsible for financial irregularities accountable.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Public Audit Amendment Act, which was published in the government gazette for public consultation on Tuesday. The act was assented to on November 18 and signed by Ramaphosa on Tuesday.

READ: Parliament concerned about threats to AG office employees auditing municipalities

The act is intended to give the Auditor General more teeth by giving the Chapter 9 institution more powers. Until now, the Auditor General has merely been allowed to ask government entities it audits to take steps to rectify problems on their books. 

Now, the Auditor General will be able to refer suspected "material irregularities" found during audits to public bodies for further investigation and to compel accounting authorities to "take appropriate remedial action" where irregularities exist.

Where accounting authorities or officers fail to implement the Auditor General's remedial action, the Auditor General must now issue a certificate of debt requiring the officer or authority to repay the amount in question.

Act unanimously passed in Parliament

In terms of the amendment, the Auditor General must now, within reasonable time after issuing an audit report, follow up on whether the recommendations have been implemented.

Where the state has lost money because of a material accounting irregularity identified up by the Auditor General, and the accounting authority or officer has failed to take action to recoup the money, the Auditor General must include in the remedial action a directive to take steps to recoup the funds, according to the new act.

The amendment act was unanimously passed by Parliament in March, according to TimesLive. At the time, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu reportedly said it would go a long way toward fighting corruption.

Speaking at the Banking Summit in October, Auditor General of South Africa Kimi Makwetu lamented rising rates of irregular expenditure which he said had reached an "all-time high", according to Fin24.

"There is a glaring absence of consequence for all wrongdoing, which has given rise to calls to expand the mandate of the Auditor General. People are ignoring the recommendations that are made by the Auditor General," Makwetu said.

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