The Auditor-General, Obadiah Biraro, on Tuesday, May 11 tabled his report to a joint parliamentary session where he said there are fears that public funds amounting to over Rwf5.6 billion were either wasted or swindled during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Biraro pointed out that his team had audited 188 entities (both financial and compliance) compared to 181 in the previous years. They include 175 individual entities, which include; six government business enterprises, 10 boards, 63 projects, 10 ministries, 29 central government entities, 31 local government entities, and 26 district hospitals. The other audited entities are under state consolidated financial statement. The irregular expenditures are in form of unsupported expenditure, partially supported expenditure, wasteful expenditure, unauthorised expenditure and funds diverted or fraudulently utilised. Performance audit focused on environmental protection, expropriation, trade and industry, revenue collection, land use, agriculture, infrastructure and education. Improvement this year Biraro told members of parliament that although institutions should do better, this year’s irregular expenditures have reduced by 65 percent reducing by three billion during the year ended 2019 to Rwf5.6bn. “Despite the decreasing trend, public resource management in some public entities is still weak and needs improvement. Unnecessary, unlawful and wasteful expenditure would have been avoided if public entities exercised due care in their operations, coupled with prudent management of public resources,” he said. Delayed contracts Like in previous years, Biraro touched on the issue of delayed contracts. The current delays involve 38 public entities and projects to a tune of Rwf212bn. These include 50 delayed contracts worth Rwf195bn identified during this year’s audits and 12 others worth Rwf21bn from previous audits. Some of these delayed contracts are as old as seven years. He reminded the legislators that successful and timely execution of government programmes helps to minimize the risk of time and resource waste during the implementation process. “All these delays were associated with delays in paying suppliers’ invoices and inadequate contract management. This results in increased cost of government projects and lack of value for money this affecting service delivery,” he said. The Auditor-General noted that public entities had abandoned contracts worth Rwf11bn comprising of Rwf795 million this past year and three others worth Rwf10bn from previous audits. By the time the works were abandoned, the contractors had been paid a total of Rwf3bn. Idle assets Biraro said that his team had identified 96 cases of assets worth Rwf21bn which are lying idle in 54 public institutions. These include 58 new cases worth Rwf16bn and 38 others worth Rwf5.6bn from last year’s audits. The majority of the assets reported have been idle for a period ranged between three months and ten years. He advised public entities to conduct proper needs assessments and to develop an effective asset management plan before assets acquisition and development. “This will help the government to avoid unnecessary expenditure through purchasing assets not required, additional maintenance costs due to idleness and any other potential losses,” he said. MPs react MP John Ruku-Rwabyoma called for those who continue to misuse public funds to be brought to book for them to be examples to others. He called upon board members of the institutions that lose big sums of money to be held accountable. “We have board members who oversee activities in these institutions but I have never heard any of them being held accountable for the losses that the institutions have incurred. We need to hold them accountable,” he said. MP Theoneste Begumisa Safari said that although there is still a long way to go, it was important to note that the Auditor General’s report did not have the ‘shameful’ part this year. “I am happy to note that today, this report doesn’t have what the Auditor General usually refers to as shameful audits as it has been in the past. My interpretation is that we are getting somewhere,” he said. MP Christine Muhongayire called for more institutions to put into consideration the Auditor General’s recommendations. “We are glad that there is no ‘shameful’ opinion from the AG this year but we still have adverse opinions. What is missing so that we get clean reports? Also, why is it that institutions continue to be reluctant to put the AG’s recommendations in action?” she wondered. Prosecuting the crime The issue of what happens after the Auditor General has publicly released his report every year has a matter of debate. However, the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) says that it has handled cases related to the 2017-18 Auditor General’s report. According to the figures, the prosecution handled 92 files related to this report, and some Rwf537m lost in embezzlement was returned before some of the cases went to trial in the last nine months. Over the same period, Prosecution has also taken 373 people to court over embezzlement and other corruption-related crimes. Official numbers obtained exclusively by The New Times, are part of embezzlement and corruption-related offenses involving 1,253 (992 male and 261 female) received by this office between July 2020 and March 2021.