A downward spiral

18 September 2019 | Columns

It is public knowledge that many of our government offices and agencies, including local and regional authorities, hardly receive clean audits from the auditor-general. Auditors have unearthed a number of inconsistencies in the financial dealings of many government ministries, agencies and offices. Millions have either been squandered or cannot be accounted for. Many times the Office of the Auditor-General has complained about the financial health of institutions that find themselves in an unhealthy state. Flouting governance laws and disregarding recommendations from auditors are some of the issues that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts picked up during its hearings recently. Many other SOEs, municipalities and town councils are also battling to achieve clean audits. This is enough confirmation that many institutions, including SOEs, are battling with serious corporate governance issues. And this cannot go unchallenged. Our concern is that despite the problem being well-documented there appears to be no urgency in enforcing leadership accountability by instituting appropriate internal control measures to ensure proper financial and performance management. The situation has now clearly spiralled out of control and is allowed to persist because there are no consequences for financial negligence. Perpetrators get away scot-free in most cases, while taxpayers have to bear the brunt of their ineptitude. It is the responsibility of the Office of the Prime Minister to see to it that there are consequences for mismanagement and non-performance. Accounting officers are at a level where they appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts and should be accountable for their actions. It is really our sincere expectation and hope that those responsible for messing up will be held accountable for their actions. There is a great fear that the lack of accountability has corroded public respect for political leaders, as well as their counterparts in the corporate world. Our nation is currently grappling with an economic mess, thanks to unethical officials who have no disregard for governance and compliance.

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