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Audit Office Act To Be Amended – Parliament

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The committee also proposes that All public sector audits, including special audits for central Government, state owned enterprises and local authorities, plus all reports of special investigations conducted in terms of Section 40 of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act must be forwarded to the Auditor General within 14 days of their completion. The Auditor-General, according to the Public Accounts Committee, must in turn automatically submit to Parliament the concerned special report within 14 days of getting it.

The Office Of the Auditor-General (OAG) ZIMBABWE has not yet released the report of its findings or rather made public its findings by publishing it a year plus on after finishing their report.Meanwhile Legislators want the Audit Office Act amended to compel ministers to table all public sector audit reports in Parliament within a week of their completion and want the Standing Orders to state, in clear terms, that no one has a privilege to disobey summons by parliamentary committees.

The Audit mandate duties as set out in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and amplified in the Audit Office Act [Chapter 22:18] are, in addition to examining, auditing and reporting on accounts of all persons entrusted with public monies or state property, to audit all institutions and agencies of government, and at the request of government carry out special audits of the accounts of any statutory body or government controlled entity.

The Audit approach once having conducted an audit in accordance with the International Standards on Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs) and the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs), those Standards require that Auditor comply with ethical requirements and plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance whether the financial statements are free from material misstatement. His audit approach is designed to enable him/her to express an opinion on any Ministry’s as an example the State Enterprises and Parastatals’ financial statements.

All aspects of the entities’ activities and procedures may not have been examined and in this regard the Auditor considers maintenance of adequate internal controls to be the responsibility of management. Hiswork cannot therefore, be expected to identify all weaknesses in the systems and procedures, which a special investigation directed at those areas might reveal. As to the possibility of fraud, Chari is expected  to plan his audit to have a reasonable expectation of its disclosure if the potential effects of the fraud would be material in the financial statements. However, there are many kinds of fraudulent activities, particularly those involving defalcation, forgery, collusion and management override of controls, which would be unreasonable to expect the normal audit to uncover.

The principal objective of his audit procedures is to enable him to express an opinion on the truth and fairness of the financial statements as a whole. An audit opinion is based on the concept of reasonable assurance. It is not a guarantee that the financial statements are free of misstatements.

Financial reporting framework of All the State Enterprises and Parastatals financial statements are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards as provided for by the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22:19]. The entities are responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of these financial statements in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

The report outlines material audit findings noted during the audits of the financial statements of the State Enterprises and Parastatals. The audit findings are classified under Governance issues, Revenue collection, management and debt recovery, Procurement of goods and services, and Employment costs. Also included under each audited account are possible risks/implications associated with the audit findings, audit recommendations, management responses in respect of the findings, audit comments to management responses where necessary and the audit opinion thereto. Although some of the issues identified are common within the audited entities, the majority of the findings are not the same due to the nature, uniqueness and varying mandates of the entities. The highlights are then summarised.

With the above it is no wonder the report of the Auditor General has not yet been released, corruption is rampant everywhere in key ministries considering the firing of the Former Health Minister Obadiah moyo and the firing of the Former Minister of Parastatals , Prisca Mupfumira.

The Public Accounts Committee only yesterday said ministers were dragging feet in tabling special reports, forensic audit reports and others, raising technicalities. 

This, according to the parliamentarians, was militating against the anti-graft fight.

Current laws give the minister discretionary power on whether or not to table a report in Parliament. There is no specific time-frame in which a minister is expected to take forensic and special audit reports to Parliament.

Some minsters have thus been sitting on forensic audit reports and other special investigation reports for months while they study them.

Following a recent delay by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development in tabling Zinara’s forensic audit compiled by Grant Thornton, the committee recommended changes to the laws.

The committee also had challenges with Zinara officials and some contractors who refused to appear for interviews during an inquiry into alleged malpractice and corruption at the parastatal.

“The Committee makes a finding that the current legal provisions pertaining to the tabling of reports needs to be harmonized with the Constitution to remove obstacles presented by Members of the Executive unwilling to have reports tabled.

“The provisions of Section 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Audit Office Act are unclear and leave Parliament in general and the Public Accounts Committee in particular, hanging at the discretion of the relevant Minister whose state enterprise or local authority has been subjected to an inquiry.

 “The current law rests the responsibility and obligations on the responsible minister without any timelines and clearly defined procedures. In the present subject matter, there was a clear refusal by the responsible minister of tabling the Forensic Audit Report.

“The Committee and Parliament have experienced similar challenges with other ministers and other forensic audit reports,” said the committee. Civil and criminal penalties must visit any officer who fails to submit or lay any report as described in the Act,” reads the recommendations by the special committee.

The committee added:

“The Standing Orders need amendment so that they make it clear that there is no privilege for those that are appearing before a Parliamentary Committee to give evidence. The Committee makes the strong finding that there is no legal privilege or protection that is available to a private actor that would have received state resources either by way of contract, donation or grant.”

The committee also proposes that All public sector audits, including special audits for central Government, state owned enterprises and local authorities, plus all reports of special investigations conducted in terms of Section 40 of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act must be forwarded to the Auditor General within 14 days of their completion. The Auditor-General, according to the Public Accounts Committee, must in turn automatically submit to Parliament the concerned special report within 14 days of getting it.

According to the committee, the responsible minister must table the concerned report before the National Assembly within the next 7 sitting days after the completion of the audit.

“Where the minister fails to table the report as defined above, the Speaker of the National Assembly shall lay before the House the report on the first sitting of Parliament after the lapsing of the 7 sitting days above.

“Therein after, the relevant Committee must examine the report or the National Assembly itself must debate the report within 21 sitting days of its tabling,” the committee recommended.

With the above facts, may the government show it is clean by letting the Report of the Auditor General made public and published.This brings accountability and finality.

Ross Moyo

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