Spotlight on faulty govt financial statements

Auditor General breathes fire.

LAWRENCE KEKETSO

MASERU – Revellers at celebrations to mark the country’s 50th independence anniversary in 2016 gobbled nearly M1 million worth of food, although there is no evidence to back this, official records show.Raising concerns on unexplainable expenditure sequences, especially with some government activities funded of a contingency nature, the Office of the Auditor General, said there was greater need now more than ever before to tighten internal controls and reporting mechanisms.This will enable government departments to furnish necessary documentation to support reported expenditure.

In her report of the 2016/17 financial year, the Auditor General Lucy Liphala has questioned the Ministry of Home Affairs for amongst others, two separate state activities which cannot pass any audit. She said this was because of a lack of clarity in the management affairs and expenditure related to two activities by the ministry.Reporting on the grand celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Lesotho’s Independence on October 04, 2016, the office is left frustrated as to the authenticity of the stated expenditure against what is available as proof of such.“Since this was a planned occasion, I had expected to be provided with a plan indicating activities to be carried out and expenditure thereon. However, there was no plan or cabinet Memorandum provided for audit and therefore I could not ascertain whether activities carried out were compliant with the intentions of Cabinet,” Liphala said.

The audit report questions, among others, high figures for catering services for the occasion, with a reported recurrent expenditure of M1,332,584 on catering services and other items. “The amount of M900,000 incurred on catering services for 3,000 people could not be verified as there were no controls in place, such as issuance of coupons, to validate the number of people fed,” states the Auditor General in the report.

She also questioned how the Home Affairs Ministry had also at its disposal a fund that was a result of good will contributions at Lesotho Post Bank, to the tune of M6,073,594 whose accounting cannot provide clear proof of expenditure nor any kind of evidence that the monies were put to expected proper use.“The Ministry of Home Affairs issued instruction letters bearing purpose for withdrawal to the bank for cash withdrawals to the amount of M181,500.00. I was not provided with evidence that the money was actually received by bona fide beneficiaries or used for items actually received,” lamented the Auditor General.

She further brings into question high expenses reported for the official burial of former minister Ntsukunyane Mphanya, where catering costs in the amount of M427,852.90 for 4,662 people was reported.While arguing that some of these wasteful expenditures could have been avoided, the Auditor General is further perplexed by the fact that in most instances, advanced monies were requested for services even before invoices were received.

“My audit established that an advance of M498,483.00 from the Contingencies Fund was granted to the Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2016 for an official funeral of a former minister,” she said, adding that what was also of concern was that there was no Cabinet Memorandum for an official burial of this particular minister, while there appears to be no clear government policy on official funerals, thereby leaving a gap on the appropriateness of the said expenditure within the parameters of the law. While also raising questions on the legality of caterers engaged, with some licensed in completely different fields from catering, in both instances of the two Home Affairs activities in 2016, the Auditor General also says it is very abnormal that invoices are raised even before the purchase orders are issued to the suppliers.

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