Learn from mistakes and stop the wastage

The Star

THE Auditor-General’s Report 2012 tabled in Parliament yesterday has once again thrown up the usual slew of cases involving mismanagement of funds to downright corruption.

Some of the cases highlighted are bound to raise a chuckle or two, like how the Customs Department had to destroy RM602,089 worth of shoes bought for its staff because they did not meet specifications.

We are used to seeing Customs destroying goods confiscated in the line of duty but to destroy 7,659 pairs of new footwear bought for its own use is certainly not right.

This incident is no laughing matter. Neither is the loss of some RM1.3mil in assets, which include firearms, vehicles and handcuffs by police over the last three years.

This was among the wastage highlighted in the report which also found the police’s management of missing assets unsatisfactory, especially at a time when we are so concerned about the spate of serious crime.

And the taxman, entrusted to making sure the government coffers are properly filled, also got ticked off for wasting up to RM9mil during the relocation of its processing centre from Pandan Indah to Bangi.

Or that the Education Ministry wasted RM2bil on unsatisfactory private security in schools.

The report cited the poor execution of security services with no monitoring at entry and exit points at school premises, insufficient guards, and guards who were either too old or failed to present adequate health and background security checks.

The problem with auditing, whether on government accounts or private companies, is that such incidents are revealed only after the fact.

And it does not help that errant officials are somewhat protected by anonymity and can be transferred to other departments after misdemeanours are discovered.

The primary purpose of auditing is to uncover impropriety, but it must also be the Auditor-General’s hope that civil servants learn from such revelations.

The weaknesses highlighted by the A-G in his latest report seem to sound like an old record.

Among them are improper payments; work or supplies not meeting specifications, unreasonable delays, wastage and weakness in management of products and assets.

Once again, public officials have been implicated in issues of graft. The MACC has a lot on its plate and must act fast to restore confidence in the way we manage the public purse.

Let us be clear that all public officials must always be accountable to the public interest. They must know that every action is subject to scrutiny and must always be above reproach.

By the same token, let us also applaud those departments who have been given a clean bill of health by the AG, especially those who have learnt from the mistakes of others.

A huge government machinery like ours will definitely have its problems but we must be clear that even a little nut or bolt can bring the machinery to a halt.

We are only as good as our weakest link and we must send out a strong message that we do not tolerate any mismanagement of public funds.