An announcement by Treasury that it has introduced a new system to control spending of public funds among government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) against a background of widespread cases of fraud, abuse and over expenditure has dominated the leading daily newspaper on Wednesday.
‘Treasury moves to control spending’ reads the headline in The Nation on front page and also an editorial comment which said ‘walk the talk on expenditure control’.
According to Secretary to Treasury Ben Botolo, government wants monthly commitment to reflect approved budgets as well as cash-flow.
Under the fresh system of controls, controlling officers in MDAs face suspension or dismissal if they spend beyond what is committed to on monthly basis.
And Treasury spokesman Davis Sado also disclosed that they have introduced Financial Compliance Unit which will be scrutinising documentation before effecting any payment and contracts so that they “pass the litmus test of complying to required government procedures and validation of the documentation before payment is processed.”
The Office of the Accountant General has also introduced a pre-auditing section to check all vouchers before a payment is processed.
Commenting about the development, the paper in the editorial said the new control measures is a welcome initiative.
But the paper pointed out that Treasury is not reinventing the wheel per se with regard to controlling expenditure, citing the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) of 2003 which expressly lays down sanctions for controlling officers who overspend or abuse public funds.
“In fact, we have been here before. We have seen how government has tended to pay lip-service to commitments to cut expenditure by cutting down on travel among senior officers, including the President,” the editorial reads.
The paper stated that it is “sceptical” to pat Treasury on the back for the new measurers with memories of Cashgate – he plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
The audit by British firm RSM (formerly Baker Tilly) in 2013 established that about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
In May 2015, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated between 2009 and December 31 2014. The K577 billion figure was later revised downwards to K236 billion in another forensic audit released in 2016.
The paper said there has been much about strengthening the public finance management systems to seal the loopholes but the process has farther been slow and frustrating to patriotic Malawians and development partners alike.
“The new measures will only bear the desired fruits if Treasury and the Executive leadership in general walk the talk on implementing the control,” reads a editorial comment.
The leading daily stated that curbing abuse of public resources, including over-expenditure, demands strong political-will from the Executive leadership, saying “it requires more action and less talk.”
Malawi is going through a serious financial squeeze, as cooperating partners have not resumed budgetary support following the Cashgate scandal.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :