11 November 2020 | Wirtschaft

‘AG should be more aggressive’

The auditor general, prosecutor general and Anti-Corruption Commission should work closer together to curb corruption at public institutions.

Parliamentarians of the ruling Swapo Party hardly take the opportunity to pose public questions to ministers. - IPPR

Jo-Maré Duddy – The poor financial performance of local authorities and public enterprises is of grave concern and increasingly places government’s finances at risk, says the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

In a report on the auditor general’s (AG) role in tackling corruption, Dietrich Remmert says it is concerning that public enterprises (PEs) are only reported on in “a very cursory fashion” in the AG’s Activity Report.

According to Remmert, AG Junias Kandjeke should, “at the minimum”, call upon the ministry of finance, the ministry of public enterprises and other relevant line ministries “to investigate, and if necessary, seek prosecutions of errant PE boards and managements”.

“The AG together with its stakeholders need to aggressively and thoroughly seek ways of mitigating and curtailing this risk,” Remmert says.

CONSISTENT DELAY

He refers to a recently released activity report which shows that the AG audits audits 38 PEs, statutory bodies, funds and trade accounts.

“A majority of these institutions consistently delay submission or do not submit financial statements at all to the AG with the result that no annual audit opinion was available. This was the case for 23 out of 38 PEs, statutory bodies, funds and trade accounts in both 2014/15 and 2015/16.”

Although government broadly recognises the importance of a supreme audit institution in good governance, Namibia continues to grapple with corruption of which many proven or alleged instances are found in public institutions, Remmert says.

Few, if any, audits compiled and released by Kandjeke’s office “generate actions or even vigorous debate by the legislature”.

‘SWAPO LOYALTY’

Ruling party loyalty among parliamentarians can act as a disincentive to act on audit recommendations, Remmert maintains.

“It is noticeable for example that parliamentarians of the ruling Swapo Party hardly take the opportunity to pose public questions to ministers. While perhaps being freer to critique government openly, opposition parliamentarians are also likely to follow their party’s lines,” the IPPR report states.

Parliamentarians should be more active and critical of government’s performance based on information contained in AG reports, Remmert says. “The executive would likely find it easy to ignore committee reports and recommendations unless these are tabled in parliament and debated.”

Parliamentarians’ “limited grasp” of audit reports could also impact to the legislature’s ability to critically reflect and act on audit recommendations, Remmert says.

“A report on parliamentary question sessions in Namibia noted that MPs often struggle to pose well-researched and phrased questions and face constraints such as lack of parliamentary support staff,” he adds.

STRONGER TIES

Remmert says that while the AG has consistently made many crucial recommendations on improving the financial performance and accountability of the public sector, little of this has been implemented.

“It can be argued that the predictable result for Namibia is an overall weak public sector with poor financial oversight. Therefore ensuring government accountability and the potential for curbing corruption by public sector officials and politicians remains substantially limited.”

The AG is limited in his role when it comes to implementing recommendations at public institutions. A strong working relationship between the AG, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the prosecutor general “could lead to successful anti-corruption efforts, as well as discourage graft within the public sector”, Remmert says.

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