Editor's Comment

Auditors should deliver

Government complex.

ABUSE of public resources seems to have become a norm. This is unacceptable and calls for more action to curb the vice.
Government’s resolve to nip the vice in the bud seems to be bearing fruit as demonstrated by the arrest and prosecution of public officers who have been found wanting. Yet, the problem continues.
Fortunately, Government is demonstrating that it will not give up the fight to clean up the civil service to ensure that public resources are properly accounted for and utilised for development to enhance service delivery.
That is why President Edgar Lungu was very categorical yesterday when swearing in Auditor-General (AG) Dick Sichembe as he formally begins his reign.
President Lungu directed Dr Sichembe to ensure the prudent use of public resources to eliminate audit queries.
The Head of State says there seems to be no end to the misappropriation and misapplication of public resources.
President Lungu is setting the right tone at the top, but the issue of misapplication or misappropriation is right at implementation level.
The message is important for the AG to relay to controlling officers, the Permanent Secretaries, who are the chief executive officers of Government ministries
The Auditor General’s work comes after spending has already happened.
But the AG can help by timely disclosure of irregularities and relevant authorities taking appropriate actions.
The AG’s task to curb misappropriation of public resources can be enhanced with support of internal auditors in ministries. If internal auditors are on top of the game there would be a considerably reduced number of audit queries.
Often, auditors are regarded as fault-finders, yet they could be better utilised as crime or abuse preventers.
They should increasingly monitor implementation laid down procedures and raise the red flag when there are indications of things going wrong. The satisfaction should be in ensuring that there are no audit queries and not that they have exposed an abuse.
So, given the President’s call on the AG, there is need for closer collaboration so that there is proper accountability for public funds.
The plunder of resources is not so much a result of inadequacy of systems but could be attributed to the breakdown of our moral compass as a people and negative shift of values.
The AG’s Office may put in place all the world-class standards ranging from sealing of financial loopholes to unparalleled procurement practices but it might not completely stop the rot.
This is because the some plunder happens through agreement by parties to engage in malpractices and not necessarily through utilisation of loopholes.
It should, however, be of great benefit to the effort if those that do overstep their boundaries are dealt with in a manner that will deter others from similar shortcomings.
All this effort is not so much to punish anyone, but rather to ensure that the limited resources available are put to the use for which they are made available.
The desire is to ensure that, for instance, if money is to be used for construction of a road at a specific standard, that should be so. With appropriate use of the resources, there would be better outcomes of projects which are for the benefit of everyone.
Dr Sichembe deserves all the support to meet these expectations and given his experience it is assuring that he will made the difference.

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