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PAC WANTS FORENSIC AUDIT

By PHEPHILE MOTAU | 2024-05-21

THE issue of unaccounted for COVID-19 response project funds continues to haunt the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) as members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have called for a forensic audit.

This was during the appearance of the deputy prime minister’s office yesterday, where it emerged that over E30 million funds were still not unaccounted for.

The auditor general found that there were unaccounted for funds amounting to E30 936 877.72 for the COVID-19 response project in the financial year ended March, 2021.

The AG said the audited financial statement (detailed statement of comprehensive income), reported a total expenditure amount of E349 955 313, whereas the records and management performance report submitted to his office represented an expenditure amount of E319 936 887.72 for the project.

This indicated unaccounted for expenditure designated for the COVID-19 Response Project.

However, the response by the DPM’s office yesterday showed that the issue had been resolved, yet the AG’s office said it remained unresolved.

 engagements

Assistant AG Samkele Motsa said there were engagements on the matter and the trial balance showed the E349 955 313, yet when they looked at the ledger balance, which informs the trial balance, it painted a different picture.

He said different expenditures were recorded under one item and they needed them to be explained further. Motsa said, therefore, the issue remained unresolved. The DPM’s office Principal Secretary Melusi Masuku said the PAC had previously raised concerns with the NDMA’s chief financial officer (CFO). He said fortunately, they now had a new CFO Thoko Dlamini who was well qualified for the job. He said this would help resolve some of the issues.

He said engagements were still on-going between the AG’s office and the NDMA on the findings.

The PAC chairman said the responses showed that the NDMA said they made an error in the funds.

The CFO of the NDMA said when the issue emerged, it showed that the money spent was E319 936 887.72, yet the management letter reflected E349 955 313, which was what was shown when they said there was an error.

She said during the engagements, they flagged the issue from the system so that those from the AG’s office could see it. She said they beamed an extract from the system.

“It was an error of the management letter, whereas the actual figure was the one shown by the audited statement,” she said. The assistant AG said things were not adding up, as the NDMA talked as if there was a consensus, yet the report they got was that there was none and they still maintained that the ledger balances were not at par with other records.

embezzled

PAC Deputy Chairman Manzi Zwane said the NDMA should show the breakdown of the E30 million and just say if it had been embezzled. He said the breakdown was what was needed in the matter; according to the recommendations.

Somntongo MP Sandile Nxumalo said things were not adding up and maybe a forensic audit could help to resolve the issue. He said the nation had its eyes wide open on how this issue would be resolved.

Zwane also asked where the PAC should head to if the AG and the DPM’s office were giving different accounts on the matter.

“The CFO should not tell us about beaming of things that we do not see, we want the breakdown of the funds,” he said. Kubuta MP Masiphula Mamba said if the NDMA insisted that the matter was resolved, the forensic audit would help find the balance which was still unaccounted for. He said a third party was needed in the matter to show where the money went to.

He also said he was concerned about the time which had elapsed since the matter was not resolved. He said the public wanted to know how the money was utilised.

Matsanjeni South MP Sabelo Ndlangamandla said the PAC did not ask for accountability, but demanded it. He said these were public funds that were being discussed. Ndlangamandla said the NDMA should bring the breakdown showing how the money was utilised.

NDMA acting CEO Eric Seyama said they felt that they were on the same page with the AG’s office when they met on the issue. The CFO also read minutes of a meeting between them and the AG’s office, where it showed that the officers had shown that they understood the issues. However, the assistant AG argued that it did not mean that the issue had been resolved.

The senior auditor also concurred that this issue and several others remained unresolved under the organisation.

Mhlanga gave the NDMA until June 14 to engage with the AG’s office and resolve all the issues.

We tried to meet AG’s office – NDMA

NDMA claims that they tried to meet with the AG’s office on time, but they failed.

PAC Chairman Madala Mhlanga wanted to know why the matter was being debated before the PAC, yet it should have been resolved during their engagement and they came with a consensus.

“The AG should be saying they concur and the matter was resolved, but they are still asking for the breakdown on the E30 million difference in the amounts,” he said.

The CFO said the NDMA tried to engage with the AG’s office while the former CEO was still with the organisation. She said they found it difficult to access the AG’s office. She said in March, the door was opened for them, hence the delay in engagements.

She said last Friday, the AG’s office made an entry meeting for a more detailed report of the things they engaged on. She said they would continue with the engagements after which they would have the final report.

She said they also tried to engage, but they did not get a response. Assistant AG Samkele Motsa said they could not meet them as they were thin on the ground. he said they also started working with the audit for the previous financial year, before they could engage on the recommendations.

Deceased beneficiaries’ proxies have died

Some people who acted as proxies to collect elderly grants on behalf of deceased beneficiaries have died, making it difficult for the DPM’s office to recover the money.

This was revealed during the PAC sitting. The auditor general reported that elderly grants amounting to E130 835 were fraudulently collected by proxies on behalf of deceased beneficiaries.

The PAC was told that some of these people were not co-operating with the ministry and have been reported to the police. Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Jele reported that some of these people were deceased.

The DPM’s office reported that the police were also still investigating this issue and the last meeting they had was in December.

The PAC was also told that some of the people could not pay back the money, but the MPs said they should face the consequences regardless as not having money to pay was not an excuse.

Missing E67m reported to cops

THE deputy prime minister’s office has reported missing funds worth E67 million to the police.

This was revealed yesterday when the office appeared before the PAC.

The auditor general had reported that the ministry did not reconcile its suspense (below-the- line) accounts, thus assets were misstated by E88 203 556.57 and liabilities were misstated by E4 062 036.47, resulting to a distorted financial position of the consolidated statement of assets and liabilities.

The senior accountant said the money included social grants and accruals. She said the accruals had been reconciled to zero and the cash advance, which is money missing, had not been reconciled.

She said the ministry tried to reconcile the money, but there were no supporting documents. She said former officers were engaged and they did not get progress on the issue. She said the money that remained to be reconciled was E67 million.

She also said the matter had been reported to the police, something which was confirmed by Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Jele from the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) Fraud Department.

Jele said the matter was reported to them through a letter dated May 15.

Somntongo MP Sandile Nxumalo wanted to know why it had taken so long to report the matter as it seemed  the ministry waited until they were to appear before the PAC.

PS Melusi Masuku said the matter began in 2010 when some of them were not yet in office. He said they also needed to satisfy themselves that it could not be resolved. Masuku said the documents were scattered all over and they worked even during the weekends to resolve the issue. He said they even recalled officers and some stated where the documents were, but they were not found, hence they decided to report the matter to the police.

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