News24

Reform Scopa, DA urges

2012-08-10 08:00

Cape Town - The National Assembly's public accounts committee (Scopa) needs to be reformed to hold government to account, the Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday.

The current model allowed directors general to continue coming to the committee without solutions to the problems reported on, DA spokesman Dion George said.

It also allowed ministers to avoid answering questions on financial management in their departments, and had no real mechanism for escalation, should the committee reject the reports presented or the minimal solutions proffered, he said.

Among other things, regular feedback from departments experiencing high levels of corruption and fruitless and wasteful spending was necessary concerning charges laid against officials in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Ministers should be ready and able to answer for financial failures in their departments, and Scopa should be able to report under-performing ministers to the presidency via the minister of monitoring and Evaluation.

George said the special investigating unit (SIU) had indicated that R30bn in public funds was lost every year as a result of fraud and corruption at government level.

In May, Auditor General Terence Nombembe stated the management of supply chains, service delivery, and the accuracy of government reports were deteriorating, and attributed the problem in part to the absence of a culture of accountability.

"Such a culture has to be instilled from an executive level and Scopa is uniquely placed to ensure that ministers answer for the failures in their departments," he said.

Scopa was briefed by various departments on their audit findings. As it stood, officials were often unable to provide coherent replies to questions on the reasons for financial failures and did not have clear plans to address management deficiencies.

Although ministers’ appearances at Scopa had improved, they were often shielded from direct questioning and often made opening or closing statements that offered no real solutions, George said.