THE Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts this morning grilled Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs management i for denying the Auditor General (AG) entry into the military bases, saying that both the Minister and Executive Director do not have authority to block the AG from doing his job.
The Committee, chaired by Dudu Murorua, demanded answers from the ministry’s Executive Director (ED), Wilhelmina Shivute, why the AG was not allowed access. Shivute, saying part of the AG’s request was to see equipment capability and military aircraft flying certificates, adds that the ministry realised that military information would be made public at the expense of state security.
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) Member of Parliament, Nico Smit, who is also a member of the Committee, also seeking answers says he was not convinced that was the only reason the AG was denied access, adding that the auditors knew what they were doing, in line with their mandate.
Murorua has since told Shivute that neither she or the Minister, Frans Kapofi, has the right to deny the AG access. “The AG was not allowed access. No audits had been made at the time so how can you say the findings would be made public if they were not allowed to audit. Processes were not followed. You could have vetted the auditors yourselves?,”Murorua remarks questioningly.
The meeting was also attended by the Chief of the Defence Force, Brigadier General Petrus Nathinge, and senior financial advisors at the Ministry. Kapofi was not in attendance.
Contacted for comment, Kapofi had this to say; “There might have been a misunderstanding. Our idea is not to deny the AG access to the records of the military. We would just need to coordinate what it is they want to access. Military bases are places that are not headquarters. These are operational units of the Defence Force and they are not easily accessible but the information the AG wants will always be given. Whatever he wants, we would want to know how best he can get that information. If he was denied access I still have to understand why.”
He also stresses that he was not sure it was the AG himself who was denied access or his subordinates. “We have the power to allow or not to allow access into the military bases. That power we have, but it is not our intention to refuse the AG to access the information he wants,” Kapofi says.
Shivute was also asked to explain the difference of N$1 682 273.45 between what was reported and what reflected in the general ledger on bursaries and study assistance. According to her, the total amount spent on study assistance increased with N$7 498.40 from N$10 482 710.62, saying she does not agree with the audit report.
“Explain why you disagree with the AG’s report. Provide us with correct figures,” Pieter Mostert of the PDM questions.
Shivute responds that the amounts do not add up because part of it was not meant for bursaries and study assistance but for military training as well, which also falls under the bursary and study assistance sub-division department. According to her, the money reflected on the general ledger is a report of all the costs spent in the division, not only bursaries.
Mostert has in the meantime suggested that in the future the military training be listed separately from the bursary and study assistance.