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Govt has heard, it must act now

20th April 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

The responsibility of any oversight or supervisory bodies is to ensure that the institutions under their watch are at all times focusing on their objectives, mission and targets for better performance.

This they must do faithfully in fulfillment of their responsibilities.

This was what the parliamentary oversight committees were tasked with when being set up.

In carrying out their work, the committees have come up with observations which show serious misuse of public resources and failings in implementation of government plans.

The committees have gone a step further, accusing the government of giving promises which it has failed to implement.

The recommendations which the committees have given to remedy the deficiencies must be seriously addressed by the government to improve the operations of its institutions.

One of the recommendations by the Local Authority Accounts Committee was for the government to use the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) reports as evidence in courts to pin down civil servants who steal public funds with impunity.

The committee noted sadly that the relevant public institutions were taking too long to probe such cases while the report of the CAG had all the necessary evidence that the suspects had committed the offences.

Indeed the suggestion stems from the frustration that the committee has faced after noting that government officials accused of embezzling funds were being transferred to other stations instead of being charged with the alleged offences.

The committee notes sadly that it was the government which has been transferring the suspects to various work stations in the local government or the central government instead of taking legal action against them.

The Public Accounts Committee has also noted a major deficiency in the way TRA was conducting its operations, saying the institution needed to change the way it planned and collected revenue.

Among its recommendations was for TRA to outsource legal services to deal with civil cases in which more than 13.24bn/- in government revenue is at stake.

Apparently the committee was not satisfied with the manner in which TRA was dealing with the cases, thus recommending the alternative action.

The committee has also called for strengthening of the internal monitoring system within the authority to establish loopholes that allow people to avoid paying tax.

While the committees have noted many more deficiencies in other areas, we have taken the above observations and recommendations for their impact on government operations.

One of government leaders’ main themes when inspecting development projects in the regions has been to warn against misuse and embezzlement of public funds at the district and local government levels.

While this is logical for it is at the grassroots where the government strives hardest for impact, it is sad that this is where the committee has observed most abuse.

The government must surely know that any actions that divert resources directed at promoting development at the grassroots will hurt it and so must be promptly and firmly dealt with.

The same applies in revenue collection. Any actions that improve this area obviously create more resources for implementing development activities and free us from the humiliating dependency on donors. What more could the government ask for?

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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