The Standing Committee on the Auditor-General met to consider the final draft report on an oversight visit to the office of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) in March 2022. Among the matters raised in the discussions was a need to strengthen the legal competency of the office of the AGSA to deal with legal challenges to its audits. Members were concerned about auditees receiving favourable reports due to their familiarity with auditors if the auditors were not rotated. They noted proposals for discussions with the relevant ministers on the appointment of the Accountant General and a legal challenge to the AGSA by the Road Accident Fund. The Committee adopted the report with amendments
Committee report on oversight visit to the office of the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) in March 2022
The Chairperson took Members through the report and invited comments.
Mr N Singh (IFP) said the report was well written. His only concern was whether it explained what had prompted the Committee to go to the office of the AGSA.
The Chairperson said this was captured in the report. The AGSA had migrated from its old office to a new one and the purpose had been to engage with the staff and see their working environment in general.
The Chairperson said too much had been written in the report’s background section on matters that had previously been tabled in Parliament.
He said a recent matter that had been referred to the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (SCOPA) was the finalisation of the appointment of the Accountant-General by National Treasury or Cabinet. There should be engagement with the Minister of Finance on this matter.
Ms S Kopane (DA) said the issue of discussing a legal challenge by the Road Accident Fund with the Minister of Transport had also been raised.
The Chairperson asked if the report sufficiently amplified the need to begin to emphatically audit the performance of auditees in terms of their budget outcomes.
Members said this was well captured.
Mr Singh said a report had been requested on progress in allocating additional powers to the AGSA. He asked if other Members could recall this. That kind of report had not been received.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee report did refer to the need for the AGSA to be supported by oversight mechanisms in implementing provisions of the Public Audit Act. He asked if Mr Singh meant that there should be reports on steps taken by other agencies in dealing with material irregularities.
Mr Singh agreed.
Ms Kopane said the Chairperson had mentioned that the Committee should visit other provinces to see the state of AGSA offices there. The AGSA had reported that some offices were leaking.
The Chairperson said there is a need to strengthen the legal competency of the AGSA’s office to deal with litigious push-backs by auditees. The office had to defend itself when auditees took it to court. This could be averted by providing firm explanations of legal issues to auditees, based on feedback from the legal unit.
Mr Singh said that auditors' over-familiarity with auditees could ensure that they received favourable reports to make the entity and management look good.
The Chairperson agreed with this and said audit practitioners should be revolved to avert a conflict of interest.
The report was adopted by Members with amendments.
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) said he wanted it to be put on record that proper administration should be done in future by the Committee Secretary and his team, as some Members did not attend the oversight visit due to flaws in the arrangements made by the support staff.
The meeting was adjourned.
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