At a time of enormous public sector spending, accountability in the public sector has become even more central to the social contract between governments and citizens. Building a strong public sector requires contribution of a wide range of stakeholders. The accountancy profession remains ready to play its part.
These were the sentiments shared at a public lecture hosted by the Department of Commercial Accounting at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) under the theme, ‘Enhancing public finance accountability during a pandemic: Unpacking the AGSA special report on the financial management of Government’s response to Covid-19’ on Wednesday, 17 March 2021.
According to Alice Muller, Acting National Leader, Auditor-General South Africa, “Quality public financial reporting is a cornerstone of sound audit standard. It informs government policy and helps to make public services and economies more sustainable and resilient over the long term.”
Currently, accountants can advise governments and other relevant institutions on the design, implementation and operation of effective systems of internal control to track and report on the use of funds intended to deal with the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
Although exceptional times require exceptional measures; they should not give rise to short cuts in key areas. “The failure to fight corruption and money-laundering during the pandemic will affect countries ability to rebuild their economies and ultimately citizens trust in governments,” said Muller. “Hence we are sharing our findings and data analyses with the newly established fusion centre that deals with fraud and corruption investigations relating to Covid-19.”
The lecture aimed to contribute to the global conversation about the outbreak of the pandemic extraordinary response by the government with a particular focus on the national audit offices to be very responsive and not abandon financial accountability.