By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – The Auditor-General (AG) ‘Mathabo Makenete has highlighted the potential vulnerabilities of her office saying they have autonomy challenges.

This she told the journalists yesterday in Maseru.

Makenete said the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning sets a ceiling on the budget they are allowed to request. According to her, this should not be the case, she said they should be allowed to request a budget without stipulations.

“We are not as independent as we like,” she charged.

The office of the Auditor-General (OAG) in Lesotho was created in accordance with Section 117 of the country’s Constitution. It derives its power and authority from the Audit Act 2016, which replaced the Audit Act 1973 and established the OAG as an independent entity.

The OAG serves as the highest authority for conducting audits in Lesotho, making it the country’s Supreme Audit Institution.

She said the AG’s office should not be classified as a statutory office.

She also expressed concern that their office is housed at the Ministry of Finance building. Under normal circumstances, she said they should operate from a separate building from finance.

Makenete says, they are also vulnerable in that if the Ministry of Finance burns, their office will also become casualty.

Every year, the AG submits a report on the consolidated financial statements of the government as per section 117 (4) of the Constitution and section 27 of the Audit Act, 2016. This report, the AG submits to the Minister of Finance who will then table it before the parliament.

These audits are conducted in accordance with the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs).

According to the Audit Act of 2016, the AG shall “not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority in the discharge of his duties”.

The AG further said, the law should not define the age of the incumbent, but should talk to the term which the incumbent should take saying at least two terms. The 59 year old was appointed to this office earlier this year and according to the laws, the incumbent should retire at the age of 60.

She said her collaboration with the media will cause those liable to be held accountable.

“As the Auditor-General’s Office, we have a clear mandate of ensuring financial accountability and transparency in public institutions, whilst the media, has an equally crucial objective, to inform the public, about the findings of the Auditor-General, especially, to follow up, to see that those who have not done their work as expected, are held to account.

“As the guidance Auditor-General’s Office prepares to release its latest annual audit report, it is important therefore, that our strategic partners, the media and our civil society organisations, have a good understanding of the key points of the report. This will make for more meaningful public accountability and transparency of the management of public finances, whilst also ensuring that in future we, you, the public of Lesotho in general, get better service delivery that is intended, from the allocation of public funds,”   the AG.

Amongst its other functions, the OAG offers technical guidance and expertise to the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as it discharges its mandatory function of scrutinizing on the use of public funds in order to hold the executive accountable.

The Director Performance Audit ‘Manako Ramonate said it is an audit of economic efficiency, and effectiveness.

Ramonate said the critical questions they pose to the ministries is; is the government doing the right thing?

She said they should minimize costs of resources used in performing an activity, without compromising quality standards.

“It takes too long to complete a report and it is costly, although benefits derived from good performance audit[s] outweigh the cost. Lack of appreciation by the audited entities evidenced by delays to provide information and non-implementation of recommendations,” she said.

She said unlike in other countries where the AG hires professionals such as engineers and medical doctors, in Lesotho they do not have adequate financial muscle to engage such technical skills in their office.

The Director of Performance Audit further stated that resources should be availed in due time, in appropriate quality and quality and at the best price.

She said the government ought to make the most of available resources.

“There is no government activity that can be executed without the objectives,” she said, adding that their work requires the verification of the concerned relationship between goals, outputs and impacts.

The Acting Deputy Auditor-General, ‘Mafani Masoabi said the government last had a clean audit in 1974.

Masoabi pointed out that for the past five years, the government has been receiving an adverse audit opinion, that is significant amount of errors and irregularities were established.

She said the ministries sometimes do not reconcile, a challenge on their part as auditors.

On the challenges facing the AG’s office, she said “you go to other countries, the position is highly secured “.