09 September 2007

News Focus/Auditor-General's Report: Spend, spend and overspend


Money not spent, money overspent and money well-spent. These are the scenarios uncovered each year by the auditor-general. P. SELVARANI, PATRICK SENNYAH and RAMLAN SAID highlight the spending patterns of government ministries, departments and agencies.

Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang says 19 ministries and departments have not spent their allocations
Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang says 19 ministries and departments have not spent their allocations
THE budget monitoring systems are not up to expectations resulting in some ministries and departments overspending. Some spent without an allocation, some spent less than 50 per cent of their budgets and some did not spend for the purpose the budgets were approved.

Among the factors which caused this to occur included poor Vot Book (similar to an accounting log book) keeping and failure of the warrant holder to submit complete monthly expenditure returns to the relevant officer.

The monthly expenditure reports produced by the accountant-general did not tally with the records in the Vot Book.

Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang discovered 52 cases where ministries and departments had spent RM4.98 million, even though they did not have the allocations for such expenditure.
They included the Prime Minister’s Department (RM1.99 million), Defence Ministry (RM0.80 million) and Human Resources Ministry (RM0.38 million)

"A total of 449 cases of spending beyond their allocations, totalling RM4,077.53 million, had occurred in 35 ministries and departments for the payment of emoluments, services and supplies and purchase of assets."

Among the ministries and departments involved were the Education Ministry (RM1,470.05 million), Defence Ministry (RM883.47 million), Health Ministry (RM631.48 million) and Public Service Department (PSD) (RM309.13 million).

Considering that most of the expenditure was for the payment of emoluments on a yearly basis, he said the Treasury should direct the ministries and departments to prepare allocations for this purpose.

Ambrin said 19 ministries and departments had not spent the RM43.67 million allocation that had been approved for 119 cases.

And 31 ministries and departments had also applied for additional allocations and advances amounting to RM502.30 million to undertake 107 programmes or activities.

"However, the Audit Department discovered that these additional allocations which had been approved had not been used at all, while in some cases, the initial allocation had also not yet been fully used."

He identified the ministries and departments which had not spent the initial allocations as the PSD (RM14.41 million) and the Rural Development Ministry (RM1.88 million).

He said under the Treasury circular issued in 2004, ministries and departments should not spend more than the estimated cost of a project approved by the Treasury or the ceiling price approved by the Economic Planning Unit.

"However, the expenses for 28 projects undertaken by 13 ministries and departments had exceeded the estimated cost under the Ninth Malaysia Plan by RM1.02 billion."

Five ministries and departments had also exceeded the ceiling price for eight projects by RM0.69 billion.

They included the Treasury Ministry (RM664 million), Primary Industries and Commodities Ministry (RM13.29 million), the Prime Minister’s Department (RM11.98 million), Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry (RM4.59 million).

Two ministries which had been given additional allocations to undertake three projects did not spend the money.

They were the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry (RM25.11 million) and the Information Ministry (RM6.28 million).

"The additional allocations should not have been requested for and approved in the first place, considering there was still a balance in the initial allocation."

He said 12 ministries and departments which received deferred allocations valued at RM82.95 million for 40 projects did not spend the money at all. The actual expenditure was less than the original allocation approved.

In an audit conducted on 10 ministries, RM729.49 million was paid last year for supplies and services received in previous years.

Delays in payments were due to late receipt of bills, insufficient allocations for the particular year the supply and service were provided, and delays in the signing of contracts.

He said the problem of late payments should be addressed as this affected the image of the government.

Under Treasury directive 58a, payments for supplies and services received in previous years can be made in the current year on condition that the ministry has a surplus in its budget for the year the supplies and services were received.

There must also be no discrepancies why there was a delay in the payment in the first place.

The ministry must also get approval from the accountant-general before settling the payment and any discrepancies must be clarified with the Treasury.

"The controlling officer should make sure bills are settled within the stipulated period to avoid making late payments under the Treasury directive."

He said a check on the accounts of 36 offices, including 10 ministries, revealed weaknesses in the preparation of bank reconciliation statements.

Twenty of these offices submitted late statements, while seven offices showed differences in the balance brought forward in their ledgers and the bank reconciliation statement of the previous month.

"The statements prepared by 10 offices had cash-book balances which differed from the balance in the banks’ ledgers."

The controlling officers, he said, should make sure the reconciliation statements were prepared systematically and within the set time frame to make sure that any misappropriation was detected early.

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