Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has given the National Audit Office (NAO) fresh tasks to audit the country’s foreign missions and what the committee has described as “top five” parastatals.
PAC piled more work in NAO’s lap during a budget cluster meeting of the Public Accounts and Budget committees at Parliament in Lilongwe yesterday to scrutinise the proposed 2020/21 National Budget Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu tabled in Parliament on Friday.
The development means that NAO will have to audit the country’s 19 foreign missions and three consulates. The “top five” parastatals listed by the committee include Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera).
PAC chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said despite NAO getting an increment in its allocation, it needed more funds and challenged the Acting Auditor General to ensure that some of the institutions in question are audited by end this year. He said the organisations were auditited four years ago.
He said the change of administration will also see some officers recalled from foreign missions; hence, the need to audit how the embassies spent public funds.
Said Namalomba: “The money that has been allocated to the National Audit Office is not enough. This is one of the institutions that provide oversight functions. We have asked them that at a minimum we want the audit of local councils must be prioritised.
“We asked them to include a provision on that and we have also asked them to include resources for auditing big five parastatals which have not previously been audited.”
In an interview, Acting Auditor General Rex Chiluzi said NAO was ready to execute the extra tasks, but hinted that there will be need for additional funding because the audit of foreign missions was not on its programme this financial year.
On the “big five” parastatals, he said NAO will need an additional K75 million and that officials will revise the budget to factor in the component of auditing embassies.
Said Chiluzi: “We appreciate the fact that resources may not be adequate. But being an oversight institution, there is a need to consider it for additional resources.
“In respect of embassies, those people get a lot of transfers from the government to be used abroad. So, if you don’t audit they tend to relax and misdirect resources. This is why we say that some of the embassies which were audited way back need to be audited now.”
In the proposed budget, NAO was allocated K2.2 billion, but Chiluzi said the extra workload, especially the audit of embassies will need an extra K1 billion.
The committee has since resolved to lobby for more resources for NAO to facilitate the audit of embassies, councils and parastatals.
The committee also resolved to meet the Secretary to the Treasury and NAO officials to map the way forward and ensure that the agency efficiently carries out its core mandate.
The proposal to audit embassies comes against a background of fraud and abuse of public resources at the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia which also doubles as a point of representation to the African Union.