COMMENTARY: Millions misappropriated; heads must roll

SHARE   |   Sunday, 22 February 2015   |   By Staff Writer

It has now become a culture at government enclave that every year the Auditor General reveals shocking statistics showing that billions of Pula have been misused, overspent or just simply unaccounted for. Soon after such revelations accounting officers from different arms of government are paraded before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer and respond to anomalies in their spending and records.  Year in and year out one accounting officer after another will appear before the PAC and give more or less the same casual promise given the AG that glaring omissions in their accounting  processes will be corrected going forward. But this never happens. For several years in perpetuity the same lie is told but no improvements implemented to arrest the losses amounting to millions from public coffers. These accounting officers are very senior public servants in positions of permanent secretaries, with extensive knowledge of government accounting systems. Which begs the questions; why can’t they rein on their subordinates to comply with international accounting processes and ensure that they reverse the trend where public funds in billions are lost? Perhaps the accounting officers themselves are incompetent, in which situations the deadwood should just be removed from office.
The Auditor General's report released last week indeed reveals financial chaos at government enclave involving millions if not billions of public funds which are not accounted for. In some instances Ministerial Tender Committees flagrantly overstep their mandate and enter into transactions committing government to arrangements that have all the hallmarks of corruption and fraud. We are tired of always being told "we will investigate the matter". What is being investigated when the AG and other departments have already put the evidence before all and sundry, demonstrating how public funds have been spent on dubious transactions? Every accounting officer - who fails to provide a convincing explanation on the misappropriation of public funds under his watch - should be shown the door for incompetence. Heads should roll, period!
We have done enough talking. It is time to crack the whip. The demeanour of accounting officers when they appear before the PAC or even their presentations to the AG clearly demonstrates that most if not all do not care about the deplorable state of affairs. To them it is just business as usual, for five consecutive years they keep promising to correct anomalies and inadequacies in their accounts. What is the major problem with accounting systems at government enclave? What are the corrective measures in place to address such problems which bleeds government coffers billions of pula annually? Who is supposed to crack the whip? Such non-action on the part of accounting officers amounts to condoning of mismanagement and/or possible embezzlement of public funds. It would therefore not be farfetched to conclude that government is paying lip service to prudent financial management and belt tightening, which the current administration always preaches. The current administration should weed out the malcontents to demonstrate zero tolerance for corruption and poor performance. Keeping these deadwoods in office would be tantamount to condoning corruption, fraud and mediocrity which bleeds government while our people are wallowing in abject poverty in the hinterlands. 
It is disheartening that government frequently defers development projects and delivery of essential services due to insufficient funds but some adults in government departments and state-owned parastatals and companies do not appreciate the urgency to be meticulous in the use of public funds. Some funds are returned unused at the end of the financial year while projects remain in complete.  What a shame!

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