- The Auditor General of Lesotho will support any mechanisms that will improve the country's reporting of the national accounts, as long as such are in accordance with the laws of the country and follow the right procedures.
Tabling for the public, the Audit report covering the two financial years of 2004/05 and 2005/06, the Auditor General, Mrs Lucy Liphafa, said there was a need to clear the books of the state of the misfortunate disclaimer statements that have become almost a traditional Auditor General's penning in all the previous and backlogged state of financial affairs of the country.
Mrs Liphafa however strongly warned that even if government was desirable of engaging and outsourcing external expertise in making the government accounts, such an engagement should be done under the office of the Accountant General to ensure adherence to the laws and regulations of the state, as well as the confidentiality in the handling of such accounts.
"We have already had a bad experience in the past, where such expertise were called in to help, and we wouldn't want to see such again," she said.
Talking about the audit report of the said two financial years, the Auditor General said even for this accounting period, the status reflected a very negative state of affairs in the financial position of the country.
"Due to material uncertainties within the accounts and limitation of scope regarding the regularity of expenditure, I am unable to express an opinion as to whether the financial statements set out .... present fairly the state of affairs of the government of Lesotho, and in particular the financial position as at 13 March 2005 and 31 March 2006," said the Auditor General in her disclaimer statement.
Amongst the reasons she gave, to have formed such a strong negative opinion, she pointed out at issues such as, unsupported balances in the accounts, failure to disclose and reconcile bank accounts, non-reconciliation of treasury ledger with records from the ministries, misallocation of expenditure as well as mispostings of revenue.
She also spoke strongly against unregulated over-expenditure by departments, saying non-compliance with the laws and regulations of the state was rife in the financial management of the country.
She also called for clarity and disclosures of the government's participation in the private investments, saying there was no link between those private sector institutions where government had invested, with some of the companies having not provided accounts for long periods.
While she said any remedying strategies would be welcome, Mrs Liphafa said as a way forward, the office of the Auditor General would work jointly with the treasury to improve the situation of the public accounts. "The aim is to remove the qualification from the accounts in the future," she said, adding that a joint action plan had been established towards that goal.
She further said while her office would continue to make recommendations for improvement, it should however be noted that the office of the Auditor General does not surcharge and such power remain with the minister responsible.
According to the statements on the public accounts audited, large amounts of public monies remain unaccounted for, either due to entry errors, commissions and other weaknesses in the accounting systems, thereby opening a huge fraud risk on the government funds, sometime put in illegally opened bank accounts.
The Auditor General was however optimistic that with the said improvements coming into play, the next report should reflect and attract a lesser qualification statement, while also calling on government to speed up improvements of the laws and systems required to reach the desirable results.
The public accounts in Lesotho have been receiving a disclaimer statement for more than 30 years, with very little action taken against the principal accounting officers in government and countable numbers of those who have actually been taken to the courts of law for defrauding government.
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