Dispelling Public Sector Auditing Perceptions

06 August 2014

It didn't take 3 months of studying auditing in my second year of my accounting studies at Wits, to know that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it post my degree. So, even I was completely surprised when I found myself one day, in the auditing industry. However, what made the journey rather interesting, has been the fact that I didn't conventionally follow a route in private sector auditing, as I had envisioned in my earlier days of university study. I found myself serving my articles in public sector auditing, which is a sector most overlooked by many as a result of ignorance and a lack of knowledge. And that's because our country's government has managed to create a "corporate image" associated with maladministration, misappropriation of funds and inefficient service delivery. We see it, read about it, and experience it everyday.

And now here I am, attempting to improve the situation, doing my bit in exposing dysfunctional financial administration and contributing towards making the "world" a better place.

People's perceptions of auditing have been quite frantic to say the least, that it really surprises me too. The expectation is something like a policeman in a grey suit and tie or in my case, a grey suit without the tie. You see, auditing is like running a spell check (hypothetically), after you've typed out your assignment or that report, you want to know whether you complied with grammatical laws.

In the same way; departments, municipalities and public entities, report on their financial year and then we come in to verify whether laws and regulations were complied with in the process and to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free from error and express an opinion thereof.

So next time, when you hear that a public sector entity obtained an unqualified opinion (which is a clean audit in layman's terms), ask yourself whether the financial administration is clean or whether the entity is clean, because there's a difference. With that said, I need you to understand that public sector auditing goes far beyond just auditing financial statements, as there's also the service delivery aspect. We call it the audit of predetermined objectives. You see, government clients have set targets (contrary to popular belief), and those need to be audited according to the SMART principle.

Are the objectives:
  • Specific?
  • Measurable?
  • Attainable?
  • Realistic?
  • Time-bound?
  • And an opinion must be expressed on the reported outcomes.

But just to get you thinking, how many times, have you as a citizen, read through the financial statements of any public sector entity? Do you know what they look like?

Or rather, have you ever listened to the Auditor-General's report? I personally think that members of the public associate our presence with an err in the President's "public matters". Like; "Where was the AG when Zuma built Nkandlaville?"

Well, definitely not out making the bricks for his compound, neither were we gathering the straw for the thatched roof… And oh yes, there's a difference between Auto & General, and the Auditor-General, you'd be surprised…

However, as a patriotic public sector auditor (in training),I've learnt that government lacks skilled professionals to take the country forward and to move from running it like the neighbours tuckshop, to running it like a corporation. (It's a mind-set issue). But I'm glad that I've had the opportunity to contribute towards the greater development process of the country and to obtain insight on what it takes to run a country through departments, municipalities and public entities. If our education process could be structured similarly to how doctors in training are required to complete 2 years of community service, before embarking on their personal endeavours, then our country could benefit a great deal from the expertise of fresh graduates, with the capacity to contribute innovative ideas in taking our country forward, before choosing to embark on their personal career objectives.

However, the concern that always remains, is why contribute your skills, which you've worked hard to acquire, only to be compensated at below market related levels? That's what everyone believes, but that's a whole different article all together.

Zipporah Sihlesenkosi Khoza

Related Topics:

  • Tax
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