The Auditor General (AG) has defended the submission to Parliament of public audits dating back to four years ago, arguing that it was important for controlling officers to realise how not to mismanage public funds in future.
This follows a concern by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that it was dealing with audit reports whose recommendations were already implemented.
In a letter dated September 7 2016 addressed to the AG, PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani said the committee resolved to fast-track and prioritise recent audit reports.
“The committee has resolved the following: That small queries in the Auditor General’s reports ought to be handled by the Office of the Auditor General and that only major queries ought to be brought before the Public Accounts Committee,” the letter reads.
For the second week, the committee has been summoning controlling officers to respond to audit queries dating back to 2012.
However, in an exclusive interview yesterday, AG Stephenson Kamphasa said his office was working to catch up with the audits to ensure they are current.
But he said his office could not just note responses to the queries without the involvement of Parliament as outlined by the law.
Said Kamphasa: “Our job is to make sure that things are in order. There are times we might think those which are five years old are not relevant, but there are certain issues that controlling officers continue to repeat.
“We need to make sure controlling officers are taken to task and this has an impact on decision-making.”
He also said Cashgate forensic audits, one in 2014 covering the period from April to September 2013 and another in 2015/16 covering the period between 2009 and 2014, had also contributed to the delays in public audits due to their urgent nature.
“We have [discussed] the 2013/14 financial year so far and a report will be submitted to Parliament shortly. We are now working on 2014/15 as a crash programme and then immediately we will start with 2015/16,” Kamphasa said.
However, he said funding was no longer a big problem following the increase of the Other Recurrent Budget from barely K400 million to K1 billion.
In an interview, Menyani said the committee was frustrated with the pace set by the AG. He said the pace cannot help them deal with and dispose of current reports.
He said: “We do not want to be going through some kind of routine, but rather work on current concerns that are relevant to what Malawians expect from us.”
For the rest of the week, the committee has lined up audit queries, including a Ministry of Health regular audit for the year ending 2012, Malawi Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Youths and Sports.
During audit queries before the committee, a controlling officer is expected to bring evidence of appendices and compilation of responses to the questions drafted by the AG’s office which are usually bulky.
The controlling officers produce the bulky responses and accompanying appendices for all 20 members of the committee.
Section 184 (2) of the Constitution demands that the AG should submit annual reports through the Minister of Finance while the Public Audit Act states that he should submit them directly to the Speaker of the National Assembly.