The offices of the Prime Minister, National Commissioner of Police, Defence Department and Correctional Services in Swaziland are among a string of government departments and agencies that have broken the law by spending tens of millions of emalangeni on vehicles and transport running costs without authority.
An Auditor General’s report has uncovered widespread malpractice that includes fraud and corruption.
The report shows the Prime Minister’s Office overspent its budget by E2.3 million (or 261 percent); the National Commissioner of Police overspent by E74.5 million (149 percent), Correctional Services E19.6 million (199 percent) and Defence E26.4 million (46 percent).
Other big over-spenders were Home Affairs (264 percent), Health (178 percent) and the Strategic Oil Reserve Fund (120 percent).
Muziwandile Dlamini, Acting Auditor General in the annual report for year ending 31 March 2017, said, ‘Over expenditures beyond the budget provision and beyond amounts that have been appropriated by Parliament are illegal and clearly violate the Appropriation Act as well as Financial and Accounting instruction 0202 (ii).’
At the core of the problem is the Central Transport Administration (CTA) whose main functions are to purchase, maintain and dispose of government vehicles and other related equipment as well as to provide fuel for government vehicles. It also provides vehicles on short-term hire to government ministries and departments.
The Auditor General’s report said there was poor record keeping and rules and regulations were often ignored. ‘As a result, risks such as theft of fuel and vehicle maintenance parts, overspending on the budget, funding of authorized expenditure and fictitious transactions were increased,’ the report stated.
The report highlighted a number of cases of malpractice. In the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs two vehicles had been taken out of service in January 2016. The report stated ‘However, both vehicles mysteriously continued to incur charges [for fuel and maintenance] up to 1 September 2016. I further notified the Controlling Officer that the charges were monthly and were of the same amount each month.’ The costs totalled E46,268.
The report added, ‘I am therefore, very concerned that as it stands, I am not convinced that the costs incurred were justified and hence cannot rule out that the costs incurred were for stolen fuel and vehicle maintenance parts, unauthorized vehicles, abused vehicles or fictitious transactions. The Controlling Officer neglected his duty to ensure regular reconciliation of vehicle records with CTA charges in order to identify and correct anomalies promptly.’
At the Ministry of Defence it was discovered that one Isuzu vehicle was refuelled with 600 litres at a single fill although its tank had a maximum capacity of 70 litres.
In an audit of the CTA Trading Account the Auditor General found E528 million had been spent in 2016-2017 without an approved budget. ‘The Central Transport Administration has been incurring expenditure through requests made by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to the Ministry of Finance, which then releases funds without issuing Warrants.
‘The budget to operate the trading account was also not sanctioned by Parliament, through an appropriation Act, and it was also not included in the budget of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, making it difficult to hold the CTA management accountable for a budget that they do not control. This may result in Government spending more money on items that are not Government priority.’
The Auditor General stated, ‘There was no way the CTA could be evaluated, in terms of financial performance, to determine whether the CTA provides returns on Government’s investment, from its trading activities or whether it is becoming a financial drain on public funds.’
During the audit it was discovered that a total of 1.75 million litres of fuel, valued at E19.53 million were not accounted for by CTA. The Auditor General reported, ‘I am concerned that by its nature, fuel is an attractive item of stores which may be subject to abuse or theft if not properly accounted for and controlled.’
The CTA has been riddled with corruption for years. In 2013 former General Transport Manager Polycarp Dlamini was sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in defrauding the department around E11 million.
In December 2012, Ntuthuko Dlamini, Minister of Public Works and Transport, told parliament that close to E3 billion of taxpayers’ money went into investigating corruption at the CTA dating back to the 1990s. The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘He said ever since the problems of corruption surfaced at CTA, many specialists were hired over the years to do forensic audits, but, unfortunately, crucial recommendations were never implemented.’
In August 2013 when CTA was reported to be running a deficit of E400 million Dlamini announced it would be converted into a parastatal like the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) and Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC). It would be led by a Chief Executive Officer and also have a Chief Financial Officer.
The Times reported, ‘Such a transformation is envisaged to bring about sweeping changes expected to eliminate the many misdeeds that went on at the CTA, including the disciplinary of wayward staff.’
The parastatal was to be called Central Transport Organisation. An Act of Parliament was gazetted in 2013 to allow this to happen, but to date the change has not gone through.
SWAZILAND ‘RIDDLED WITH CORRUPTION’
GOVT MINISTRIES IN FINANCIAL MESS