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Prime Minister Questions, Doubts AG Office’s Reports

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MBABANE – Prime Minister (PM) Russell Dlamini has raised concerns regarding the operations of the Auditor General’s Office, questioning the reliability and accuracy of its reports and protocols.

In a recent breakfast meeting with the Editors’ Forum of Eswatini, PM Dlamini addressed the issue of unqualified audits conducted by Timothy Matsebula, the Auditor General (AG). The primary focus was the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA). During his address, the PM expressed doubts about the credibility of the AG’s office, highlighting concerns about the management of COVID-19 funds.

Unqualified Audits

The PM underscored the importance of maintaining high standards in audit practices. He noted that several audits, including those of the NDMA, were not conducted by qualified personnel. This lapse in professional standards has resulted in questions about the integrity and accuracy of the financial reports, particularly those related to COVID-19 expenditures.

According to the PM, the Auditor General’s Office has been criticized for its handling of the COVID-19 funds, with the public and other stakeholders demanding transparency and accountability. The PM emphasized that the AG’s Office must improve its audit protocols to ensure that all audits are conducted by qualified and experienced auditors.

Landmark Cases

Among the landmark cases dealt with by the AG’s office, notable mentions include:

– Former Health Minister Benjamin Shongwe, who faced charges of fraud amounting to E585,904.48, with his case now handled by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
– Funds totaling E7.4 million were found missing from the Ministry of Health in 2019.
– A staggering E1.57 million went missing in 2018 from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office.
– The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs was held accountable for the disappearance of E30 million from the Eswatini Revenue Services account.

Call for Reform

The PM urged for immediate reforms within the Auditor General’s Office. He stressed that having unqualified individuals conduct audits undermines the office’s credibility and the public’s trust. PM Dlamini called for the AG’s Office to adhere strictly to international audit standards and practices.

In response, the Auditor General, Timothy Matsebula, defended his office’s procedures, citing challenges such as limited resources and the need for more robust capacity-building initiatives. He acknowledged the issues raised by the PM and expressed a commitment to addressing them.

Moving Forward

As the country navigates its way through the post-pandemic recovery phase, the PM’s call for stringent audit reforms is seen as a critical step towards enhancing financial transparency and accountability in Eswatini. The government, together with the AG’s Office, is expected to work collaboratively to restore public confidence and ensure that all funds, especially those allocated for disaster management, are utilized effectively and transparently.

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