LocalNews

Bleak year for Auditor General’s office

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE 2019/20 financial year promises to be tough one for the Auditor Genral’s Office as the government has only allocated M1, 6 million to finance the critical of assessing government expenditure.

The Deputy Auditor General, ‘Mafani Masoabi, the money was inadequate for the operations of the office.

Although she could not immediately say how much the office required for the year in question, the M1, 6 million allocation is M1 million short of the M2, 6 million which the office was allocated in the 2017/18 financial year excluding salaries.

According to information from the Auditor General’s financial office, the government allocated only M27 million out of the requested M34 million for operations and salaries.

Ms Masoabi said the budget was too small for the auditors to conduct business locally, let alone visiting the country’s diplomatic missions abroad.

“We were given far below the budget ceiling that was allocated for us,” Ms Masoabi said.

“The funds are not enough for our operations. With this budget we are unable to do our work especially in foreign missions. The budget is just too small for both local and foreign missions.

“Our operations run beyond Maseru because we send auditors out to work in all 10 districts, district councils and government departments. All the logistics that include accommodation cost a lot of money. We are going to have a huge challenge in trying to execute our work,” Ms Masoabi said.

The Auditor General’s failure to assess books in international missions could be detrimental for the public funds which have been misappropriated before.

Ms Masoabi said previous visits to some diplomatic missions had unearthed some discrepancies in the use of funds.

She said that in many instances, the auditors learned that some international missions were short-staffed so much that inexperienced locals were hired to run the missions’ finances.

This led to public funds being embezzled and a lot of money being unaccounted for.

Earlier this year, a team from the office of the Auditor General said that their previous visits to Lesotho’s diplomatic missions found their books in shambles due to lack of accountability and misappropriation of funds.

Ms Masoabi said that there was chaos in the diplomatic missions’ accounts.

“Books were being handled by locals who were cleaners and did not have any knowledge about handling finances. Money had been deposited into personal accounts.

“There were no returns.  This is because books were handled by janitors who have no knowledge of making return reports which are supposed to be captured in the system to assess the country’s expenditure. The returns are a necessity in order for the auditor general to express the opinion on whether the financial positions of Lesotho were reflective of the prevailing fiscal status,” she said.

She said the cleaners were doing the work of the third secretary who should ideally be a trained person from the general accountant’s office.

She added that there was a lot of maladministration in the Lesotho’s embassies and the Auditor General was unable to assess the books regularly due to lack of funds.

 

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