Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Sloppy book-keeping cost govt dearly

An investigation has unearthed a host of oversight lapses and excesses in the Administration of Justice which have “exposed government funds to irrecoverable loss”, but auditors said shoddy record keeping prevented a comprehensive probe into one of the most vexing issues in the judiciary ÔÇô the extent to which judges have been illegally receiving housing allowances while occupying institutional houses.

A Ministry of Defence Justice and Security internal audit report reveals how longstanding, systemic weaknesses resulted in the judiciary ignoring guidelines and violating record-keeping requirements detailed in the government financial procedure and Cabinet Memoranda.

As at May this year when the report was compiled, the Administration of Justice had no records indicating when any of the judges occupied and vacated institutional houses. “The audit team requested for Occupation and Vacation Certificates to establish the exact date when judges took residence and left the institutional houses. It transpired that judges had not signed House Occupation Certificates upon residing in the institutional houses. No particular reason was advanced for failure to keep these certificates. This was in contravention of Cabinet Memorandum No 90 dated May 6, 2015 Ministerial file No MDJS (S) 1/13/32 1 which provides that when a judge “… takes up occupation of an official free residence and when he or she vacates it, he or she shall sign the appropriate house Occupation and Vacation Certificate which is required by the housing officer”.

The report found transgressions stretching across a 12-year period which resulted in the Administration of Justice paying housing allowances erroneously. “Failure by Administration of Justice to terminate housing allowance was attributed to non-reconciliation of payrolls, in contravention of Financial Procedure 1115, requesting monthly reconciliation of salaries to detect any discrepancies in salary and allowance payments. This state of affairs has exposed government funds to irrecoverable loss, considering the amount of overpayments already incurred”, states the report.

“There is poor record keeping and misfiling which makes it difficult to locate documents as and when they are requested for reference. This state of affairs adversely affected completion of this audit exercise.

“Audit noted continued failure to take action on correspondence from the Honourable Judges. These delays or non-action were evident particularly where Honourable Gaongalelwe and Honourable Dingake had written requesting for deduction of overpayment from their salaries. Delays were also noted in addressing reported defects in institutional housing. This greatly affect Judges’ convenience and their free housing privilege”, states the report.

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