African govt watchdogs set to meet in Mpuma

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mbombela - Government watchdogs from all over Africa will meet in Mpumalanga in September to thrash out more effective ways to hold civil servants accountable.

Members of the Southern African Development Community Organisation of Public Accounts Committees (SADCOPAC) will be joined by members from East and West Africa to decide how to strengthen oversight of the continent's governments and their management of public funds.

"We will share best practices from across the continent and internationally with the aim to improve oversight," said SADCOPAC secretary general Webber Chinyadza, who also heads the public accounts committee in the Zimbabwean parliament.

Chinyadza said conference delegates were expected to adopt recommendations that seek to improve public participation in public accounts committee meetings.

They will also consider legal sanctions against civil servants.

SADCOPAC chairman Fish Mahlalela said: "At the moment in South Africa, on the continent and even in countries like Australia, public accounts committees complain that there are no legal sanctions they can enforce decisions with. We are at the mercy of the elected minister or MEC to take action against an official who might have not adhered to legislation."

Mahlalela is a member of the Mpumalanga legislature and serves on its public accounts committee.

He said sometimes the only option is to name and shame officials who might have done wrong.

Association of Public Accounts Committees secretary general Sipho Makama said members would take the resolutions adopted at the conference back to their countries and ask their parliaments and legislatures to adopt them as parliamentary resolutions.

"This will enforce the resolutions of the conference and ensure the work of all public accounts committees are improved," said Makama.

Makama is a member of the Gauteng legislature and serves on its public accounts committee.

According to Chinyadza, oversight committees in the region differ vastly. In Tanzania, public accounts committees want to broadcast public hearings live on either radio or television, while in South Africa a forum for all anti-corruption agencies will be set up by December to help public accounts committees.

Chinyadza said Zimbabwe's public accounts committee was not yet functioning effectively. He said the country hoped to address the matter before the end of the year.

He said Botswana also hopes to conduct its first public hearings in May this year.