ACCOUNTABILITY THE KEY TO TRANSPARENCY –AG

NAMIBIANS entrusted with public office need to maintain the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and create a legacy of financial discipline as a way of maintaining respect, and accountability from the members of the public who have given them the opportunity to serve.

While this would be the benchmark set for public office bearers by the electorate the same applies for public institutions, regulatory authorities and local authorities if they entertain any hopes of gaining the much needed confidence from the general populace.

In a quest to understand the operations of the Auditor General (AG), Junias Kandjeke, who is tasked with auditing the financial performance of public institutions, Prime Focus met the AG in to dwell on the challenges and success of the organisation.

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is the only public institution that does not fall under the public service commission and is tasked with maintaining public finances in order and making recommendations to Parliament and Government on how to improve operations of state owned institutions.

It works closely with public service to corroborate its efforts in driving its mandate home as enshrined by the Namibian constitution.

It is with this background that Kandjeke believes the organisation should be the torch bearer in upholding the principles of accountability and delivery as this will make it easy for other institutions to follow.

“We should be the trend setters in accounting for our operations to make it easy for the rest to pluck a leaf from our operations,” he says.

The organisation is tasked with the mountainous task of auditing 143 public accounts namely,13 regional authorities, 54 local authorities, 31 Government accounts and 43 statutory bodies.

The OAG has seen some of the good times for the past 20 years including chairing the Southern African Development Committee Supreme Audit Institute and the African Supreme Audit Institute (ASAI) where Namibia was the first English speaking African countries to sit at the helm of the 23 member grouping, ASAI.

That alone is not enough to sum up the international successes of the country, which by far one of the smallest economies in the Commonwealth Group of countries. as Namibia has won the 2009 Swedish National Audit Office performance price.

“I would attribute such success to the professionalism and dedication of the office and enhanced training of staff,” Kandjeke says.

Namibia will have the honour to host two international audit conferences the AFRO-SAI on the 4th of April.

The gathering will focus on ways to improve human resources development, encouraging independence of the Supreme Audit Institute and its performance.

The country will also play host to the Commonwealth Auditor Generals’ Conference on the 11th of April 2011 which also focuses on the performance of public institutions and enhance institutional capacity.

Despite the successes of the OAG over the last 21 years, the challenges that have also been encountered especially in the operation of state owned enterprises have been equally tedious.

Kandjeke notes with vividness that not all State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been smiling all the way to the bank as others have been coming short of merely spelling the word profitability while others have declared millions in royalties to treasury.

“Operations of SOEs have been mixed as some have achieved the required results and maintained sustainability while others have been performing badly and surviving on Government bailouts over the last decade,” explains Kandjeke.

“As an organisation we report directly to the Parliament. It is by law the prerogative of the Minister of Finance to present those reports within a month to Parliament, failure of which a notification is made. After this we would expect the report to be done in 14 days,” the Auditor General says.

Kandjeke adds that the country has scored many benchmarks in their operations to improve accountability in public institutions, including the setting up of a staff training programme that has all its 147 accounts being audited by Namibians.

To attain its intended results the Auditor General also works with its extended hand reaching out to the private auditing firms which also help out in other institutions and also carry out surveys including members of the public to come up with the best modalities for future improvement.

Furthermore, Namibia has a good law platform to improve the operations of SOEs the regulatory body’s challenging litmus test is to have the state institutions to comply with the country’s laws, thus Kandjeke.

“We really do not need any new laws in Namibia, we just have to make sure public institutions comply and adhere to the laws of the country.”

Commenting on the exemption of local authorities from paying audit fees for five years Kandjeke argues that his office took the decision to allow the training of auditing personnel to help audit their finances.

“Local authorities were burdened with debts to the AG’s office and the deal was meant to create a relief for the struggling local authorities,” he says. PF