THE Controller and Auditor General (CAG) reports for the financial year 2021-2022 audit was released on 29th March 2023 and raised mixed feelings and views from the public on the government’s operations specifically on the use of public funds.
In quick analysis, the public views were derived depending on the level of understanding of government operations and meaning of CAG observations/recommendations.
For the huge part, CAG reports address the observation on Public Procurement procedures. In this course, people have to understand that public procurement is more restricted to legislation unlike private procurement which is always less restricted.
The huge difference between public and private procurement, mainly are their goals and legislation. Here, the primary goal of private procurement is to maximize profit, while public procurement aims at social, ethical, economic, environmental, professional and personal matters and instruments of public policies.
It is estimated that Public Procurement in Tanzania uses more than 70% of government spending. This necessitates having strict rules and regulations on the use of funds.
By these facts, procurement is the paramount area in any auditing exercise as it attracts the interest of many stakeholders. There is a quote from an audit professional that says “Auditors are shining stars that guide you through your day to day. Without them we would be lost and dreaming in our humble rooms,” therefore we cannot hide from the auditor(s), we need to embrace them since they create and maintain our ways to best practice, procedures and best control systems”.
This highlight of Public Procurement gives us a detailed understanding of the importance of auditing and Controller and Auditor General (CAG) reports.
Article 143 (1) (c) of Our constitution gives CAG mandate and power to carry out auditing at least once every year and report all accounts of the Government. Section 26 (c) of the Public Audit Act Cap 418 (R.E) of 2021 (The Act) , among others, requires CAG to audit procurement processes and procedures.
The act gives CAG the power to provide “Opinion” and “Recommendation” of the findings of the auditing process as per section 34 (1) (a) and Section 12 of The Act. According to the Longman Dictionary “Opinion” means “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge” I quote.
Better keep in mind that CAG reports are professional Opinions and recommendations based on his observation, examination, inquiries and analysis. Some people are getting wrong when it comes to interpretation of CAG audit reports.
Most people jump into conclusion that all people alleged in CAG reports have already committed what CAG opined. This shows the gap of auditing knowledge in the public. Either by mistake or by intention, sometimes even scholars use CAG opinions to implicate public officers.
There is a need to create awareness and understanding on CAG Audit procedure as per the laws of the United republic of Tanzania. Procedures, starts with section 31 of The Act that requires accounting officers to submit a financial statement three months after every end of financial years. Government financial years start on 1st July and end 30th June each year.
This means that financial statements should be submitted before the end of September each year to enable CAG to carry out audits for six months or more.
After the auditing process CAG is required to submit findings to management of audited public institutions and give them 21 days to respond to the CAG observations (Section 37 (1& 2) and Reg. 86 (2)).
In case the Audited Institution fails to submit the response within 21 days the CAG will compile the report as per Reg. 86 (3) of The Public Audit Regulations of 2009 (The Regulation). Regulation 88 requires CAG to submit his general report to the President by 31st March each year as witnessed on 29th March 2023 Mr Charles Kichere submitted to President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
As per time set by law CAG cannot wait for responses from audited institutions beyond 21 days, therefore some audited issues are caused by time constraints however they are still allowed to submit their response to the Parliament.
The Act also needs the President to instruct the responsible Minister to table the report to the Parliament within 7 days after it is submitted by CAG.
At this point is where the report is ready for Public Consumption, not final and cannot take any one to the court of law. The Act allows reports to be reviewed and discussed by Parliamentary oversight committees (PAC, LAAC) (Section 38(1) and Reg. 93 ) and gives the audited institutions another 21 to re submit their responses.
In case of Forensic Audit, before taking someone to the court of law CAG has to submit his report to the appropriate investigative organ (Section 27 (2)), this means there is need of more work to be done before implicating someone.
Sometimes investigative organs may find the matter submitted by CAG is not tenable in the law (section 27 (5)).
On 9th April 2023 President issued a statement to all Accounting officers to respond to the CAG report as she still believes that allegations can be answered during parliament session. It is irreparable to judge alleged officers before the matter reaches the court of law.
That is why there are not many cases in the court of law for the people implicated by CAG reports. Not because the Government does not take action but because the law allows all mistakes to be corrected at different stages of the reporting system of these reports. It is true that many issues are solved during Parliament Sessions or before that, unfortunately the public is only informed when reports are tabled to the Parliament.
No follow up details after Parliament Sessions. I urge the public that now it is the high time to get to understand the CAG auditing and reporting system as required by our Constitution and Public Audit Act Cap 418 (R.E) of 2021.
To the journalist to pay attention and report on response after parliament sessions and were possible on the implementation plan prepared by Audited Institutions Albert Enstein once said “The only source of knowledge is experience”, therefore It is my advice to all audited Institutions to learn from the experience of the past audits and audit reports from other institutions, mistake is intention once repeated.
CPSP Jackson William Musiba Email: jackswilly10@gmail. com Tel: +255715287088.
This column is dedicated to raise awareness to the general public on the Public Procurement and all other related issues. It will provide news, opinion and analysis on all procurement matters.