Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The imperative to act on Auditor General’s report

The scathing annual report the Federal Auditor General submitted to Parliament this Tuesday should set the alarm bell ringing. A 60-page analysis of its financial, performance and legal audit findings into the accounts of ministries and other agencies of the federal government for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the report addresses a raft of issues of critical concern. It highlights several shortcomings that have been rolling over for years if not decades now.The report contains some shocking numbers—14.11 billion birr in receivable accounts, out of which close to 11 billion birr is overdue by 10 years, unsubstantiated expenditures amounting to363 million birr, 514.5 million birrthat was not reconciled on time, and uncollected revenue from revenue generating entities totaling 19.4 billion birr.

The report laid out the usual litany of other irregularities identified in previous reports submitted by the Federal Auditor General. Chief among these are failure to record self-generated revenues and uncollected revenues in income ledgers,collecting revenues without a tariff schedule approved by the relevant authority as well as procurement of goods and services in violation of the applicable laws, rules and procedures. Aside from affirming the existence of financial malfeasance that it says has been going on for long despite repeated warnings, the Auditor General’s report laid bare the mismanagement of government properties and the prevalence of government-funded construction projects which are blighted by cost overrun and schedule slippage or have been totally suspended.

The importance of the report of the Federal Auditor General cannot be overstated. It plays a critical role in promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance within the Ethiopian government and its associated bodies. This report essentially serves as a crucial tool for oversight and ensures that public resources are managed in a responsible and effective manner. One key aspect of the Federal Auditor General’s report is its role in promoting transparency. The thorough it audits and the publicizing of its findings shed light on how public funds are being managed. This transparency is vitalto holding government officials and civil servants accountable for their actions. It allows the public to scrutinize government spending, identify instances of corruption or misuse of funds, and demand accountability from those responsible.

Moreover, the report serves as a mechanism for accountability. When the Auditor General identifies instances of financial irregularities or non-compliance with regulations, it puts pressure on government entities to rectify the issues and take corrective action. This accountability mechanism goes  a long way to deterring corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency within government institutions. Knowing that their actions are subject to scrutiny incentivizes officials to act in the best interests of the public and ensures that public funds are used judiciously.In addition to transparency and accountability, the report contributes its share to enhancing governance. It informs policymakers and government leaders about systemic issues that need to be addressed by highlighting areas where governance processes are weak or ineffective. It prompts reforms, improvements in financial management practices, and the implementation of better controls to prevent future instances of mismanagement.

The report also serves as a valuable tool for decision-making. Government leaders can use the findings and recommendations of the Auditor General to make informed decisions on budget allocation, resource utilization, and policy implementation. By taking into account the audit findings, policymakers can prioritize areas for improvement, allocate resources more efficiently, and address systemic challenges that may hinder the country’s development. Furthermore, itsinestimable value in terms of ensuring that public funds are managed effectively and efficiently not only helps maintain a stable economic environment that promotes investment and growth but also enhances trust in government institutions.

Ultimately, the Federal Auditor General’s report is a cornerstone of good governance and plays a pivotal role in promoting accountability, transparency, and effective public financial management. Its findings and recommendations are indispensable for identifying weaknesses in the system, fostering transparency, and ensuring that public resources are utilized for the benefit of citizens. Sadly, the inability of Parliament to discharge its oversight responsibility and enforce its recommendations as well as the continued failure of the executive branch of the government to abide properly by the financial administration legislations of the country have called into question if the Auditor General is given the respect it deservesand its work is truly appreciated. If Ethiopia is to steer on the path toeconomic growth, social development, and political stability, it is of the essence that all stakeholders heed the report and act on it wholeheartedly.

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