'Govt not ready to bankroll public audit'

HARARE - Government is not ready for the adoption and implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (Ipsas) as the Treasury is empty, a local economist has warned.

Economist John Robertson said government is not ready to bankroll the public audit on politicians and public sector accounts required in the adoption and implementation of Ipsas as it does not have the resources required.

“Currently, the Treasury is empty and saying government will comply with these international standards is optimism at its best. The country does not have money for such an exercise at the moment,” Robertson said.
 
He said without financial intervention, government will not be able to comply with Ipsas, a development which requires full disclosure in public finance reporting to improve transparency and accountability.

“Government needs financial aid for the realisation of the Ipsas locally,” he said.

The system requires a public audit on government officials and public sector accounts, and according to Robertson, the country neither has the skill to carry out the audit nor the financial backing demanded by such an exercise.

The standards are set for use by public sector entities in preparation of financial statements and are based on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

The economist also cast doubt on government’s ability to fully disclose results and financial reports in the public sector accounts.

He said apart from the financial constraints, the new system is also likely to face resistance from key stakeholders especially politicians as they will be required to make full disclosure of information which in the old system of reporting has been kept confidential.

Weasley Sibanda, chairperson of Public Accountants and Auditors Board is on record saying while government has been strict on financial reporting standards for the private sector, it has failed to impose similar discipline in public finance accounts, and it is doubtful that conformity will be encouraged with the coming of the Ipsas.

“It is very doubtful that politicians will comply. In the past we have heard of accusations against figures like the President but we did not hear of them being audited,” Robertson said.

He said in the past youth militia has been paid using public funds which have not been accounted for.

“Recently diamond revenue has been reportedly used for all sorts of purposes without the financial reports being produced. The coming of Ipsas will not be enough to instil compliance in the various government departments,” Robertson said. - Ndakaziva Majaka

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