The pursuit of clean audits – in other words the public policy environments where no “mistakes are made” – can defeat the overall purpose of public policy if it paralyses public officials into doing the minimum, writes Jabulani Sikhakhane.
The choice of measurements, specifically which ones to accentuate, can have a huge distortionary influence on what gets done or not. Take municipalities. A recent report on the poor performance of municipalities flags how the greater focus on audit outcomes over the delivery of public services has been a contributing factor to the poor delivery of basic services.
This is not a problem facing municipalities only. It is prevalent across other spheres of government, including state-owned enterprises. There too much focus on audit outcomes, specifically the attainment of a clean audit which has been elevated way above the implementation of public policies and programmes. The Auditor General defines a clean audit as financial statements that are free from material misstatements and instances in which no material findings were found on performance objectives or non-compliance with legislation.
Subscribe to News24 for just R75 per month to read all our investigative and in-depth journalism.
You can cancel any time.