Auditor-General South Africa provided a briefing on its role and mandate, saying its mandate is limited to auditing and advising and does not cover enforcing consequences and accountability. The Auditor-General simply alerts the departments about where they are in danger of under-performing and makes recommendations. Accounting officers and executive authorities are responsible for holding departments and entities accountable. A legislative base exists, but it is about who wants to take action. The Auditor-General would like to have more frequent contact with ministers and parliamentary committees in order to put pressure on the departments and their entities to perform according to their commitments.
The Committee was concerned about the unacceptable level of corruption in the system. It was particularly concerned about the 26 entities under the purview of the Department of Arts and Culture. The Committee agreed that in order to reduce corruption and increase efficiency government, record keeping and record management is critical. Another concern was that auditing fees can take up to one third of a small entity’s budget. The Committee pointed out that just because the audit is clean and the money is spent properly, does not mean that the department has performed well.
The Committee and the Auditor-General agreed that their mandates cannot force the departments to perform according to their commitments and pre-determined objectives. However, together they can apply pressure to perform. The Committee’s duty is to the people of South Africa, and both the Auditor-General and the Portfolio Committee have a responsibility to monitor funding in order to reduce corruption and identify problematic areas.
The Chairperson remarked that it is the Portfolio Committee’s job is to ask the right questions, in order to deliver what they are supposed to the millions of people in South Africa. If the Portfolio Committee does not, then it has failed them. The Committee is training for a ‘marathon’, and it takes time and commitment.
Ms Corne Myburgh, Business Executive, Auditor-General South Africa, introduced a short video explaining the purpose and functions of the auditing process.
In order to prepare the budget, AGSA looks at the department's budget and asks these questions:
• Is the budget aligned with the strategic plan?
• Have adequate resources been allocated to the priority areas?
• Are there budget constraints and how have they been dealt with?
• Focus on changes in the budget from one year to the other
During the budget's implementation, AGSA asks these questions:
•Is departmental spending on the right track and in line with strategic plan priorities?
• Does management evaluate monthly and quarterly reports?
• Do action plans exist to address audit findings and improve financial management and accountability?
• Are there designed, implemented and maintained internal controls (for financial and non-financial information)?
• Are procedures in place to identify, prevent and detect fraud?
• Are adequate governance arrangements in place and are they effective (internal audit and audit committee)?
Mr Zipho Mdluli, AGSA Senior Manager, stated that the goal is to build public confidence. AGSA’s contribution to parliamentary oversight is to brief to committees on:
• Audits reports before the portfolio committee compiles its BRRR (read with the annual report)
•Sharing of audit risks & status of key controls of current year audits
• Discuss the findings identified from the audit of the predetermined objectives (PDOs)
• Act as an expert witness during public hearings
• Table the General Report before road shows (PFMA & MFMA)
• Follows-up regularly on the progress of implementation of resolutions
• Interact with the Committee chairpersons (quarterly).
AGSA mandate is derived from the Constitution and the Public Audit Act (No 25 of 2004). Section 188 of the Constitution states that AGSA must audit and report on accounts, financial statements and financial management of government institutions and report to the Parliament / legislature that has a direct interest in the report. Sections 20 of the Public Audit Act states that AG must prepare an audit report containing an opinion / conclusion on: financial statements and financial position; compliance and financial management; and, predetermined objectives.
The auditor forms an opinion on whether the financial statements are prepared in all material aspects in accordance with the specific applicable financial reporting framework. The Predetermined Objectives include:
- Reliability and usefulness of performance information which assesses if the measurable targets were actually achieved in service delivery
- Compliance with laws and regulations
- Reporting on material non-compliance with key legislation
- Good Administration / Clean audit.
The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) Annual Report consists of the following:
- Minister’s foreword, Deputy Minister’s statement, Overview of the Accounting officer,
Strategic overview, Legislative mandate of the department, Organisational structure, Public
entities and statutory bodies reporting to the Minister.
Information on predetermined objectives and programme performance
- Audited in terms of the audit work performed on predetermined objectives.
Human resources (HR) management
- Statistical information on the HR elements
Annual financial Statement Sections (DAC)
- Report of the Audit committee
- Report of the Accounting Officer
- Report of the Auditor-General
- Financial Statements in accordance with the Modified Cash Standards for DAC
(Appropriation Statement, Statement of financial performance, Statement of Financial Position, Statement of Net Assets, Cash flow statement,& Notes)
AGSA concluded with a table of the audit opinions for the last three years for all 27 entities that make up the DAC (see document).
The Chairperson commended the Auditor General on a creative presentation that captures one's attention. She noted there was one important aspect missing: heritage. In terms of budget, Arts and Culture receives less money than other portfolios but she pointed out that preventing crime could be done by engaging young people in the arts. It is so basic and these activities are necessary. Record keeping and record management is critical to government, but is not recognized often enough. Within the next five years, record keeping and record management will be dealt with even on the municipal level.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) jokingly asked AGSA if they paid the Arts and Culture department to create its presentation. He expressed concern about all that has gone wrong in the past, after being involved with the South African administration for 20 years. He commented, “There is a current outcry from myself, from the media, and from everyone else about the unacceptable amount of corruption in the system. He asked where the gaps in the regulatory regime are. If things continually go wrong, there must be gaps. It is the responsibility of the auditors to be able to give the necessary evaluations without interference from gaps in regulation. He questioned if South Africa has the proper laws and regulations, that are specifically stringent enough, that actually lead to consequences. He asked if the law could be reviewed and strengthened. As this is a continuous problem, something must be missing.
Mr Zipho Mdluli, AGSA Senior Manager, responded that is it the Auditor General’s job to highlight the deficiencies. In terms of consequences, there are applicable laws as far as the department and entities themselves. There are laws on the consequences and about who is accountable. Accounting officers, accounting authorities, and executive authorities have the responsibility to hold each entity accountable. AGSA believes that most of the resources are available. To take the first step, it is AGSA who states that there has been digression from these laws. Legislatively there is a base. The legislation exists, but it is about who wants to take action. This has been a challenge. Laws can always be written but those who enforce them need to accept that responsibility for applying those laws.
The Chairperson stated that as an overseeing committee, they have seen these reccurring issues. Why are these flaws still happening if there can be consequences for the people who have been identified? On record keeping, she noted it is the DAC’s mandate to ensure that everyone manages their records. She asked how far the AGSA has gone to ensure that it properly managed its own records, before telling other departments how to do theirs. The Chairperson welcomed questions from Members regarding their previous experiences.
In response to Mr Mahlangu asking why the presentation included 28 entities, but there are only 27, Mr Mdluli said that there are 26 entities. Mr Mahlangu insisted that the AG may be missing two entities or that there is a mistake in the information but Mr Mdluli again stated that there are 26 entities.
Mr Mahlangu referred back to the main question. The department has provided a situation analysis that consists of procedures that have been followed over the past three years, but he asked why only the last two slides deal with the DAC and focus on which oversight areas to prioritise. This document is supposed to help in preparation for the Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR). This information is supposed to help the Committee understand the annual report information that they will get from the DAC.
Mr Mdluli responded that this presentation will help the Committee understand the information that comes, yes.
Mr Mahlangu remarked that this is a workshop, and that the Committee does not know much because they are new. This is only one example. He does not know this “animal” that they will be getting. He does not know how to take this information and understand. He hopes that he can ask a relevant question about how the role of the AG is not to evaluate policy, but is to do something else. In regards to implementation, perhaps this question is posed to the wrong body but, is there an implementation policy? He finds it strange that the Public Service Act (PSA) contrasts with the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA) that gives the executive authority some powers that can be delegated”. Ministers delegate to the Director-General. Yet the PMFA gives direct powers to the Director-General (Accounting Officer) and the Chief Finance Officer. That conflicts with the law of delegation. However, this may not be the AG’s area of attention. The thing that concerns the AG in the main is caused by this conflict in our law. The executive has power that is delegated yet the other Act gives you direct power. Those two are always in conflict. Over the years, instead of improving, AGSA is dealing with people who are getting worse. Although the Auditor-General is advising government, government continues not to achieve. He believes that this legal mismatch is one of the problems that cause this failure.
Mr Mahlangu commented about the Committee reviewing the Annual Performance Plan (APP). If it is reviewed by the Portfolio Committee, what should be the outcome of that review if the Committee does not have the capability to change the APP? Last year the AG did a performance audit on the use of consultants in government, and the Committee would be interested to know what the challenges are in their sector about this because it is not agreed upon. The report is needed to examine this. Additionally, he asked what the timelines are for the regulatory auditing cycle in the last quarter to the beginning of the current year, and why the last year final quarter is being tabled now. He asked if he is correct in saying that a clean audit does not necessarily mean that the department “did what it said it would do” because this could contribute to some of the problems on the ground. Lastly, he questioned why fraud irregularity reports do not mention people by name.
The Chairperson requested that the AG makes sure to take notes for their responses.
Ms A Matshobeni (EFF) remarked that it is public knowledge that governance and accountability have been challenges for quite some time even though they are core to institutions. She asked AGSA to prove their accomplishments and to state whether or not they had a relationship with institutions like the Public Protector. She asked what the AG’s role was in relation to PANSALB. She remarked that 70% of the PANSALB budget went towards salaries and asked if that is due to underfunding. She asked about its role for these institutions.
Ms V Magotsi (ANC) asked about the Office of the Auditor-General's relationship with Treasury and the Department. What challenges does the AG face with the department, that differs from the Treasury? Regarding the PMFA, she questions its mandate for the entities of the DAC. She asked if there are plans for dealing with entities that did not take the AG’s advice. When she heard the AG was coming, she ran to this meeting. She asked why the AG is using integrated reporting about what the department has done, but this is not instituted in the department. It is problematic that only the Annual Report is used. Finances are the focus instead of sustainability. Integrated information would allow the Committee to go deeper into the economic development for each community. The integrated report would help departments by looking at whether or not entities met their mandate - such as in terms of language. It would assist South Africa to do this integrated reporting because it relates to good governance. If other entities have adopted it, it is not understandable why the DAC cannot meet the adopted financial model. The Chairperson was correct in saying that if the parent is not well, then the kids [the entities] will be sick.
Ms Magotsi questioned who sits on the department’s audit committee, if they are independent, and if the AG audits this audit committee. She asked where the power ends if the Management Letter Points (MLPs) are given only to the department to scrutinize. Every audit report advises on which areas there are problems. If the Arts and Culture has a few MLPs in the first quarter, by the 2nd more have been raised, and so on as the year progresses, this is problematic. It is good in terms of the audit findings and recommendations, but under financials the remedy is not provided. She asks again, what is the AG’s mission with regards to Treasury and the departments, because the AG cannot just focus on finances, and forget about the issues. The DAC organizational structure is approved by Treasury as the department’s desired structure, but we find something different, especially with the entities. She fears that the entities are abnormal. While the AG is auditing the department, she is worried that the entities are not functioning well. She is most worried about the organizational structure because structure is foundational. No one knows what the Annual Report will say, but the issues have been raised. In closing, she thanked the Office of the Auditor General for the great opportunity to meet and to be able to raise the use of an integrated report, taking on the public entities and the departments, and to understand sustainable development in not just the private but the public sector. She would advise the use of an integrated report next time.
Ms Vuyokazi Mafilika, AGSA Parliamentary Manager, asked to explain the anomalies which are the Section 21 companies, Business and Arts South Africa and the Engelenburg House Art Collection, which are funded by the department. She has not seen an Annual Report thus far from them. She asked for clarity for the members.
The Chairperson added that the Portfolio Committee is charged with overseeing anyone who receives money from the government because it is taxpayers’ money. Sometimes organizations get a clean audit but the organization has achieved nothing. As Mr Mahlangu said, organizations tell the AG the information that they want to hear. It is important to get to all these entities who are getting money from government, like Business and Arts South Africa and Engelenburg House, and to oversee the total budget. It is acceptable to raise in the discussions the Committee’s own experiences. The AG must point out the areas to improve, but at the end of the day the government has the responsibility to act. This is a challenge to this Committee and the AG. Our role is to sit down and identify the problem areas. This is why the legal department of the National Assembly (NA) is necessary. However, Committees make findings and recommend, but nothing happens. There needs to be advising for the legal department. The same findings and recommendation cannot be given for five years. They just engage with us. The Committee represents the people, and what they are saying. A case study would be useful. In three provinces there is no such thing as the BRRR, it is the first time some committee members have heard of it. She said that the Committee has tools and asked how to move forward. She wants to know exactly what to do now and what happens at the end of the BRRR process because the Committee does not know what is involved. The expenditure of the previous year and its quarters must be examined. The gaps have been identified by the Committee. For example, record management is important, not only for the DAC, but also for the South African government as a whole. It should be prioritized because it relates to integrity. The areas of concern have been identified by the Committee. However it is unclear how to use the BRRR to ensure that the areas of concern get resources.
Mr Mahlangu noted that some of the DAC entities have raised concerns about the new auditing regime that has been introduced, He spoke about the valuation of assets. Some of the museums have got butterflies, 408 butterflies, but they have no value. There are too many things that are valueless, but must be there for kids to look at in the museums. They are everywhere and minute. They pick up dust and must be audited. He would like the AG to educate the Committee about this new system. If there is one way for the AG to interface with the entities, their challenges should be recognised. Generally Recognized Accounting Principles (GRAP) is spoken about every day, but in museums there are sometimes only two people who are working there as the museums do not make money. This is a problem the AG and Treasury must work together on. If there are only two people working at the museum, according to Treasury regulations, that would be breaking the law. Having the Office of the Auditor General interface with the DAC entities would help because this is often the nature of museums.
The Chairperson said she tried to protect the AG, but it was hard knowing that one third of the budget of the entity must go to the AG. This is problematic. The AG audit cost about R700 000. This is not fair. It is important to see how the Department or Treasury can assist the entities of the DAC.
Ms Corne Myburgh, AGSA Business Executive, addressed three broad issues. Firstly, she referred to the Auditor General’s General Report that comes out later than the audit reports. The General Report includes all of the departments and all of the entities. At the back of this report, there is an annexure about all of the findings, audit outcomes, pre-determined objectives, and compliance with PMFA regulations in the public sector. That is what is to be expected. Secondly, the General Report identifies the root problems in the entire public sector. In previous General Reports, there have been concerns raised about the slow responses to the actions that have been identified by the AG, such as lack of consequences for transgressions. The AG will table that General Report which require commitments from stakeholders and to monitor how they follow these commitments. The AG’s mandate is just to audit and recommend it cannot force the department’s hand. The AG stresses working with the overseeing authorities, like Parliament, to apply more pressure to the auditees. Thirdly, the AG’s role is only a small portion of the BRRR cycle; it only includes the AG’s audit report on which it gives briefings to the Committee. There are various other players involved in the process.
Mr Mdluli replied about delegation and the PSA and PMFA overlap. The PMFA has the delegation of financial management. The executive authority or accounting officer is delegated these powers because the Minister is not an operational person. The Minister should be the one who tells the Accounting Officer to execute the mandate, within a desirable structure. The Minister should not be doing the payments or appointing people. That is how it should function, and he thinks that it is designed adequately. The PSA is not talking about the financial management. The financial report for last year can be circulated to members, it is public record. Consultancy has now become a focus of the AG, looking at this within all the departments. He spoke about the management letter/report which is given to each department but it is not included in the audit report, unless there were transgressions mentioned in the management report. The management report is not a public record. This management report is meant to see if the funds and the skills were used correctly. This exercise is done universally at the departmental level.
The Chairperson responded that the Committee does not have the right to access the management letter according to her understanding, but it would be beneficial to have access to better understand the issues that have been raised. Hopefully the AG can talk to the Department and see if this is advisable in this case.
Mr Mdluli said that he believes that a relationship with the DAC Audit Committee might help because the management letter is tabled there. On the question about the clean audit, evaluating good service delivery is not part of the Auditor-General’s mandate. If the financial statement is correct, then the audit report only extends to assessing if the spending of money was where the entity intended to spend it. The AG does not want to do negative reporting, in which they report what was not done, rather than what was done. The Committee should read all the information before coming to a conclusion, not only read the audit report. The Auditor General does not declare which one is sick and which one is not. On the question of timelines on the issue of fraud naming and shaming, the audit report just states that there was a fraud investigation, what was done, and the effect. How the fraud affects the financial statement will be indicated there. The details are in the management letter or the investigator’s direct report. The AG would not give the person’s name.
The Chairperson expanded by saying that all the irregular expenditure should be broken down.
Mr Mdluli replied that the breakdown information is usually on the financial statement, such as the quotations or advertising the tender. It is broken down by activities so that the Committee can see what things are not being done. However, the AG is not there for the identification of fraud.
The Chairperson asked if SCOPA does that.
Mr Mdluli said he is not sure, but once it is tabled and the AG points out the scenario, it is the Accounting Officer‘s duty to react. The same is said to the Audit Committee of the Department.
On the GRAP 103 issue, Mr Mdluli said that it is a standard that was set by the Treasury. It is found to be a bit cumbersome. It was adopted by the Accounting Standards Board. It is not just butterflies and such that are valuable as heritage assets. It was created to see what they are looking after. In terms of valuing the butterflies, it takes three years to implement a standard before it comes into effect in the next audit. How they will manage it is unknown but Treasury should be consulted. There are a lot of assets there, not just butterflies. It is a tricky situation but they must handle it. The AG only tests compliance against the standard.
Mr Mdluli said that the AG cannot control audit fees, they are determined by the rate set and the hours spent auditing. The more effectively the entity works, the less time it takes to audit. If all the background documents, proper references, and financial statements are included and presented, the time can be cut down. It is cumbersome to measure compliance. It just takes time and effort. The nature of auditing is an expensive exercise. Specially preparing for the audit can help.
On its relationship with other Chapter Nine institutions, such as the Public Protector, the pervious and current AG knows what the Public Protector has an issue with particular government entities. The AG acts with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Public Protector to know what these two are looking at in an institution. When these institutions look at compliance it is not time bound, like an audit which is time-bound. An audit is usually a one-year cycle. The relationship with these institutions is there, the Committee needs to take into account what has been found by them. The Committee needs to consider the risks that the Public Protector’s findings have identified in combination with the audit findings. PANSALB is a Chapter 9 institution with no Minister. They are looked after by Arts and Culture but they report directly to Parliament. There has been discourse over the past three years about what they are supposed to do and what they have been doing. There has been much instability. In the previous year, they had to be bailed out just to pay their bills. Let us hope the board that has taken on the responsibility to oversee it, will help PANSALB to redefine its mandate. It is unclear why they have 116 employees, but the AG does not prevent the appointment of employees. The AG has consistently reported this problem, and this year was worse because the audit report came back as a disclaimer. Hopefully, the Committee will help elicit a proper reaction to what has been diagnosed in PANSALB. It is Parliament and the Portfolio Committee’s responsibility to make things come right at the entity. The AG is engaged with Treasury on a continuous basis strategically. The criterion for irregular expenditure is included in the information from the Treasury in terms of whether or not a transgression is an irregular expenditure or non-compliance. The Treasury alerts the AG to findings that are not coming through in the audit reports. The AG will continue to meet with Treasury to see about its experience with the different entities, once or twice a year. Regarding the alignment between an entity and what the PMFA states, as far as AGSA know, the PMFA is the guiding tool for all entities. It cannot contradict the Constitution or the enabling act that gives the entities its powers. The AG is not sure if there is a specific example of where the mandate contradicts this, hopefully there are none.
Ms Myburgh replied that the AG had adopted the integrated report because it is good practice, but the AG cannot force the entities to do so, because it is not legislated. The AG can only encourage them to follow these principles.
Ms Magotsi asked if the AG was doing integrated reporting.
Mr Mdluli responded that the annual report format is prescribed to the departments by the Treasury. There is an Audit Committee that exists of independent people. There are five members who are not employees of the department. The AG is invited to the Audit Committee. The internal management report that is issued to and addressed by management; it shows how the internal management met the department’s quarterly commitments. There is nothing the AG can do if they continue to transgress. The AG gives them the warning signs and tools to rectify these matters.
The Chairperson asked if the AG gives this information to the Minister because a politician meets the cry from the top, but the officials can do what they like.
Mr Mdluli quickly confirmed that they do. The AG only met the previous Minister once. The new Minister has requested quarterly meetings. Meetings are held with the Minister of Police regularly. Next week they will meet with him, and he hopes that other ministers will be willing to meet regularly.
Ms Mogotsi commented that the increasing MLPs each quarterly pose a risk and questioned what the AG is doing about this. If the department cannot function quarterly and it is gets worse, she wonders what the AG would advise the department to do. She asked which mistakes the AG is making that lead to this continuous failure. The government cannot fall in front of the AG’s eyes, even if the AG cannot police.
The Chairperson stated that there is a separation of powers. The Committee can only find and recommend, like the AG. If there is a red flag, there is nothing the Committee can do about it. This is where the parliamentary legal advisor needs to come in. The Committee is tired of making the same recommendations year after year. The Committee is not there to oversee but to assist in the executive doing the right thing. The Chairperson said the Committee is better placed than the AG to see that the department does what it is supposed to do. The Department and the AG must work together, “because it is not about us. It is about the people.” Parliament works to make sure that the right product is delivered to the people.
Mr Mdluli thanked the chair for answering more than adequately on his behalf. Yes, Business Arts SA and the Engelenberg House get their money from government but they are Section 21 companies, they are not PFMA Section 3 entities, and the AG does not have the mandate to audit them because they are not listed in the PMFA schedules. The AG cannot audit Section 21 companies.
The Chairperson remarked that taxpayers’ money goes to these entities. She asked how the AG deals with this. As an oversight body, the Portfolio Committee needs to oversee taxpayers’ money. She said that if the AG leaves the even .08% of the budget to unmonitored entities then the AG is not looking at everything and is only dealing with part of the budget.
Mr Mdluli insisted that this was not the case because in order to give money to an entity, it must give business plans to the department and the department is supposed to monitor them. Section 21 entities have their own board and no delegation. The board elects its own auditors. The AG’s power is limited at this time. There is a new AG directive that has come into effect. Hopefully this directive will assist those who are fighting for funding for their livelihood. The other point is that for the AG to express an opinion, the entity must comply with all the requirements, including the financial statements, with GRAP and pre-determined objectives within the supply chain. The first audit will cost R500 000.
The Chairperson said the Department reports on these Section 21 companies institutions in its reports. If the Department gives them money, then it is taxpayers’ money. It cannot be left to other people to report on. The Portfolio Committee only gets a summary. She was concerned about this.
Mr Mdluli said that in October the AG will table the audit report and more will be clarified.
The Chairperson asked how old these institutions were.
Ms Mafilika replied that Engelenberg House is an art collection that has been around since before the Committee. Business and Arts South Africa is quite a new establishment with a tabled annual report.
The Chairperson said she would like to have a situation where all the entities are reported on. It is scary to give institution money and not to oversee it. Without reporting, there is no telling what the institution is doing. The institution will say what the department wants to hear.
Mr Mahlangu pointed out that the question regarding the APP was not responded to.
Mr Mdluli said according to the AG’s knowledge, the department designs the APP at the beginning of the budget cycle and then it comes to this Committee. In order for it to come into effect, it needs to get a stamp of approval from the Committee. It must be reviewed and input must be given for the Committee to approve it. The AG believes that there is a review process before the APP is approved. That is the AG’s belief, but maybe not the members’ beliefs.
Mr Mahlangu replied that a court of appeal reviews, the Committee does not review. It receives a presentation and approves or rejects it and its budget. The Committee just looks at it. It does not review it.
The Chairperson asked the AG to speak on the BRRR process and its stakeholders, in order improve for next time. Next time, the Chairperson would like to be ready for the BRRR.
The Committee Secretary responded that she could give members a short presentation on what the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) is.
The Chairperson said that it would be of assistance for Members to email in comments and concerns during the constituency period so that the information can be prepared.
Mr Mahlangu asked if the Committees could subject the entities to a similar discussion.
The Committee Secretary responded that there is not enough time to recognise all of the entities.
The Chairperson thanked the AG, saying the relationship between the Auditor-General and the Portfolio Committee has to be nurtured, because it is not about us. At the end of the five years, the Committee wants to look back and say it was not easy, but it was worth it. The Chairperson thanked the Members for being available. The Chairperson and the Committee want the Department to be strong and to do what it is supposed to. When the parent is sick, the kids are in trouble. The Committee and the Auditor-General want the parent to be strong and healthy so it can deliver to the people.
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