‘Auditor-general not there to attack government’

2011-11-25 08:40

The office of the auditor-general does not exist to attack South Africa’s government, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday.

“It is of concern that when they do their work diligently as they do, some in society want to give an impression that the [Chapter 9] institutions exist to attack government, which is not the case,” Zuma said.

“The institutions play a very important monitoring role which assists government in its work... They complement the work that government is doing in monitoring itself.”

Zuma was speaking at the centenary celebrations of the office of the auditor-general in Midrand, Gauteng.

Chapter 9 of the Constitution positions the auditor-general alongside institutions like the office of the Public Protector, who are tasked with enhancing democracy in the country.

“It is our firm belief that the Chapter 9 institutions such as the office of the auditor-general exist to encourage excellence, the best possible service, and the best possible use of the fairly limited resources we have to address a complex set of challenges,” Zuma said.

“Their commitment should be supplemented with an underlying sense of positive expectation from the public service instead of fear.

“As government, we would not want public servants to be so over-cautious as to fear taking any action or to work at all as that would affect service delivery. What we need is improved awareness and training on how to handle public finances.”

The auditor-general’s office was established on May 12 1911. Zuma said it was a “ historical coincidence” that centenary of the office was being marked so close to the centenary of the African National Congress.

“The South Africa of 1911 and 1912 is obviously totally different from the inclusive, non-racist, non-sexist, prosperous country that we began building in 1994,” Zuma said.

“The democratic environment has enabled the institution to thrive, given the transparency that has characterised our government and society over the past 17 years.

“It is that culture of openness that has enabled the auditor-general’s office to be able to uncover wastage, fruitless expenditure, underspending, overspending and other serious shortcomings in the handling of public finances,” Zuma said.

He said the office had grown into a respected organisation during the 17 years of democracy.

“Due its outstanding work, the office of the auditor-general is respected by ordinary South Africans, Parliament, government departments, other entities and the international community.

“It is with pride that as a democratic government, we have witnessed the increased effectiveness of this network of oversight established by our model Constitution.”

Zuma said he was happy with the way the office was promoting auditing as a respectable profession among the youth.

“From the basic education to higher education levels, our schools and institutions of higher learning should encourage children to look towards this profession,” he said.

“The fear of mathematics and accounting should gradually become a thing of the past, and the office of the auditor-general can be a good partner in this regard.”

Earlier in the function, auditor-general of Tanzania, Ludovick Utouh, announced that his country would be taking over the role of auditing the United Nations from South Africa in July next year.

He said he was proud to be following the example South Africa set during its tenure.

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