Guest Column

Celebrate achievements like good governance

2015-08-07 14:16

We must recognise and celebrate the track record of South Africa in just 21 years in its attempt to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

Let's boast about our successes, efforts towards the integration of a racially divided society, empowerment and advancement of women, most progressive gender policies, improved infrastructure in black and rural areas (roads, clinics, schools, Post Offices, libraries, etc), electricity, water, improvements in education (including paperless classrooms in Gauteng), free primary & secondary education, subsidized higher education (increased NSFAS support, R9 billion), access to health (free health for the poor), infrastructure rollout,  social grants, business growth (though benefiting a few), etc.

We even have consolidated planning into a National Development Plan (NDP). Obviously there remains a lot of work needed to be done to eradicate the legacy given the damage caused by apartheid (prior to 1994).

Included, and of note, must be the celebration of improvements in good governance and leadership, witnessed through the increased clean audit opinions from Auditor General of SA (AGSA), as this lays ground and systems for improving service delivery and radical transformation.

Our country, the beautiful SA has a painful repressive past before 1994, characterised by more than 350 years of apartheid rule and colonialism, crime against humanity, white minority Conservative and National Party (CP, NP, in collaboration with DP, now DA, as a participant in white parliamentary rule) brutal, divisive, secretive, corrupt, racist, sexist and you can name all bad characteristics.

The list of its impact is long, from excluding blacks (including Africans, Coloureds and Indians) from the economy, education, etc. to excluding married black women from working and employment benefits.

This brutality was grounded through apartheid laws like Group Areas Act, Anti-communism Act, Bantu Education Act, etc. The severity of its impact (and its racial character) remains felt by rural and township poor, black elderly (in particular women) do not have retirement funding thereby relying on their children/grand children for support and social grant, lack and poor infrastructure and facilities in respect of some rural and township schools, clinics, roads, no recreation and sporting facilities for rural communities, poorly resourced rural clinics, limited access to funding by some post matric students, lack of requisite skills, unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Indeed a lot still needs to be done to eradicate the apartheid legacy.

On reading the "The Third Empire", Business Day (05th August 2015), I was impressed by the acknowledgement of the achievement of and maintaining of the National Assembly's record of receiving a clean audit report from the AGSA since 2006-7.

I am hoping that in the midst of negative news coverage throughout our media landscape, we see more need of reporting about these good examples as our responsibility in building the nation.

I am aware that there is many of such examples, including The Presidency, Sentech,  Media Information & Communications Technology SETA (MICTSETA), MDDA (until 2014), some provincial Departments like the Eastern Cape Rural Development & Agrarian Reform (DRDAR), Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA), Eastern Cape Provincial Treasury, Office of the Premier, the Eastern Cape Socio-economic Consultative Council (in 2013/14), some municipalities like Matatiele Local Municipality, etc.

The AGSA reports published in the auditees' annual reports, informs those responsible for oversight, the public and others of material misstatements in the financial statements, material findings on the usefulness and reliability of the performance report, material non-compliance with key legislation in specific focus areas, and the deficiencies in internal control that would have been identified during the audit.

The AGSA as its mandate conduct a variety of audits, such as regularity audits (financial and compliance), performance audits, the audit of reporting against predetermined objectives, and investigations.

The AGSA expresses on the audit opinions, the following meanings:

Clean audit outcome:

The financial statements are free from material misstatements (in other words, a financially unqualified audit opinion) and there are no material findings on reporting on performance objectives or non-compliance with legislation.

Financially unqualified audit opinion:

The financial statements contain no material misstatements. Unless we express a clean audit outcome, findings have been raised on either reporting on predetermined objectives or non-compliance with legislation, or both these aspects.

Qualified audit opinion:

The financial statements contain material misstatements in specific amounts, or there is insufficient evidence for us to conclude that specific amounts included in the financial statements are not materially misstated.

Adverse audit opinion:

The financial statements contain material misstatements that are not confined to specific amounts, or the misstatements represent a substantial portion of the financial statements.

Disclaimer of audit opinion:

The auditee provided insufficient evidence in the form of documentation on which to base an audit opinion. The lack of sufficient evidence is not confined to specific amounts, or represents a substantial portion of the information contained in the financial statements.

AGSA also reports on the auditing auditees' reporting on their predetermined objectives and auditing auditees' compliance with legislation. Mr Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, the Auditor General, in his 2013/14 overall report, announced a steady improvements generally from municipalities to nationally.

At a glance, Mr Makwetu said 25% achieved clean audits compared to 22% in the previous year, singling out performance of Gauteng and Western Cape provinces. It is worth noting that some of national public entities reports are reported as part of province reports where they are based.

Mr Makwetu said this reflected on good control environments characterised by strong leadership control, good governance as well as financial and performance management controls that prevent, or detect and correct, errors and non-compliance.

He noted most importantly that there are leaders and managers in the public sector who understand their responsibilities and discharge their duties in an effective manner.

The AGSA reports are a credible reflection of our progress in respect of leadership, financial management and performance. They tell the good story, expose corruption and non-compliance.

These good stories must be told, reported and celebrated. Yes we must know challenges, train and improve capacity and skills, expose the bad apples, ensure consequential management and promote good governance and accountability.

To those who are still struggling, it is important to empower themselves and familiarise with a number of great South African good governance references and tools, including The ACE (Audit Committee Effectiveness) Model (authored by Ms Sindi Zilwa) which creates a unique packaged approach towards Effectiveness for Audit Committees through the 4 ACE phases every Audit Committee member has to understand and apply.

The Nkonki ACE Model is regarded as the winning formula for achieving Audit Committee Effectiveness, Achieve maximum effectiveness and apply best practice as an Audit Committee member.

Also, of important use and guide is King III (authored by Mervin King) - The King Code of Governance Principles and the King Report on Governance which came into effect on March 1 2010.

Another helpful reference is the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA), which is a professional body. It is recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and is a non-profit company (NPC) that exists to promote corporate governance, and to maintain and enhance the credibility of directorship as a profession.

Whilst acknowledging our challenges, taking actions to redress them, let's celebrate our democracy, our achievements, women advancement in all spheres of society, progressive gender policies, great leaders and managers of our country.

Good governance multiplies the ability and maximise the impact of service delivery. Clean audit outcomes must be an inspiration and goal of every Accounting Officer (CEO) and must weigh as a key  basis of a performance bonus.

*Lumko Mtimde is an ICT, media and broadcasting policy and regulatory expert. Member of the Institute of Directors (IoDSA), Non-executive Director on a number of Boards including SENTECH, MICTSETA, NSFAS, ECITI, WSA, etc. Also a former CEO of the MDDA (served 2 full terms & in receipt of a number of clean unqualified audit reports from the AGSA)and a former Councillor of both IBA and ICASA.


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