Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Billions unaccounted for in Swaziland Govt finances, Auditor General reports

The finances of the Government of Swaziland / eSwatini are in such a mess that billions of emalangeni cannot be accounted for, the kingdom’s Auditor General (AG) reported.

In his annual report for the year ending March 2018, AG Timothy Matsebula stated government revenue, assets, and liabilities ‘were materially misstated’. He said in some cases it was impossible to reconcile government cash books with bank statements.

The AG report revealed government bank balances had been misstated by E1.3 billion. The amount of revenue collected in the kingdom was misstated by E1.35 billion. The amount of income tax and road toll collected was understated by E1.34 billion.

The amount of government financial liabilities was misstated by E13 billion.

The AG report demonstrates that the government which is handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, does not have a clear idea how much money it has and how it is being spent.

The AG reported, ‘Misstatements can arise from fraud or error and are considered material if, individually or in the aggregate, they could reasonably be expected to influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of these Financial Statements.’

On 27 February 2019 Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg in his annual budget said Swaziland was broke. He said the kingdom faced ‘an unprecedented economic crisis’. Part of his solution was to not pay public servants cost of living wage increases. He also announced tax increases on electricity, tobacco and alcohol.  

He also said, ‘This budget seeks to ensure that your hard-earned taxes and our international partner’s financial support is spent in a sustainable, transparent manner for the betterment of our economy and future generations.’

He added, ‘All levels of Government will be held accountable for transparent, responsive communication and delivery on our responsibilities.’

The Auditor General report shows government finances are not transparent. The Finance Minister does not have the correct information about the kingdom’s actual revenues and expenditures. 

In his budget speech he said, ‘We are in trouble because we have not been balancing our books.’ A reading of the AG report suggests it is impossible to say one way or another whether the books in Swaziland balance.

This is not the first time the Swaziland Government has been exposed for losing control of the kingdom’s revenues and expenditures. In the previous annual report to March 2017 Acting Auditor General Muziwandile Dlamini said, ‘Bank balances were misstated by E7,528,772,278.72 due to non-reconciliation between the government cash books and bank statements. Some bank balances were overstated by E2,285,935,191.93 and other bank account balances were understated by E5,242,837,086.79 thus reflecting an incorrect cash flow position of the Government of Swaziland at year end.’

Richard Rooney

See also

Govt ministries broke law on spending

US$632 million error in govt accounts

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