The new powers vested upon the auditor-general (AG) by Parliament are slowly being implemented in across country’s provinces.
This was revealed in Thursday’s presentation by officials of the AG’s office as they briefed the media on how the new amendments of the Public Audit Act were being implemented in KwaZulu-Natal.
The AG’s activities remain the same as before, with the exception that key additional steps can now be taken beyond the mandate of auditing and reporting.
The slight tweaks include the concept of material irregularities, whose main focus is to identify, isolate and pursue common deficiencies that place the public funds at risk of financial loss.
These include fraud, theft, breach of fiduciary duty, or non-compliance with contravening of the law, which may result in material loss, the misuse or loss of material; public resources, or harm to a public sector or institution.
Under the Act, matters identified or suspected to have material irregularities can now be referred to a public body such as the Public Protector, Special Investigative Unit (SIU) or the police.
These bodies would then take the legal mandate and appropriate action deemed necessary.
The AG can now also make recommendations in the audit report on how material irregularities should be addressed within a specified period, and take remedial actions if recommendations have not been implemented.
Thursday’s presentation revealed that these powers had come into effect in the province.
Back in 2017, an award of R27.54 million was made by the provincial department of health for the supply of radiology equipment to bidders that did not score the highest points as required.
The AG found that there was non-compliance, which most likely resulted in a material loss as the cost of the equipment purchased from the winning bidders was higher than the prices submitted by the highest scoring bidders.
The accounting officer then requested the provincial treasury’s forensic investigations unit to undertake comprehensive investigations on the matter.
The accounting officer now plans to take the necessary action based on the revised outcome of the investigation and its recommendations.