13 November 2018

Swaziland: Tens of Millions Lost to Banking Fraud in Swaziland, but Outstripped By Government Corruption

Swaziland / Eswatini lost E30 million from the economy because of fraud during the past year, the kingdom's national police Deputy Commissioner Mumcy Dlamini said.

She told an event for International Fraud Awareness week on Monday (12 November 2018) this was mainly connected to 'banking sector business'.

She said fraudulent activities involve electronic fund transfers and false banking instructions.

However, she did not reveal the extent of fraud within the public sector which far outstrips that in private business. Earlier this year the Swaziland Auditor General exposed widespread financial irregularities across many government ministries.

Acting Auditor General Muziwandile Dlamini said in an annual report that financial accounts were incomplete, billions of emalangeni were unaccounted for and laid-down rules, guidelines and procedures were ignored. The offices of the Prime Minister, National Commissioner of Police, Defence Department and Correctional Services were among a string of government departments and agencies that broke the law by spending tens of millions of emalangeni on vehicles and transport running costs without authority

The report covered the financial year to 31 March 2017.

Muziwandile Dlamini said, 'Bank balances were misstated by E7,528,772,278.72 due to non-reconciliation between the government cash books and bank statements. Some bank balances were overstated by E2,285,935,191.93 and other bank account balances were understated by E5,242,837,086.79 thus reflecting an incorrect cash flow position of the Government of Swaziland at year end.'

The report detailed inconsistencies throughout government, including:

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OFFICE

Disability payments went to people who did not qualify and those who were entitled were not getting them because the DPM's Office had not developed guidelines on how to distribute grants. During the three years 2014 to 2016 disability grants amounting to E12.4 million were disbursed in the absence of guidelines which should have been created in line with the National Disability Policy of 2013. Eligibility assessment and screening of disabled citizens was conducted by social workers. The Auditor General's report identified non-deserving people from across Swaziland who received a total of at least E228,720 without proper approval.

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING

More than E3 million was unaccounted for by the Ministry of Education and Training. The report stated that the money was part of E23 million allocated to the ministry for rehabilitation of schools that were damaged by storms. Only E20 million was used for the project, an under-expenditure of 13 percent. Under expenditures, according to the report, were as serious as over-expenditures because if funds were not used, development would be retarded and economic growth negatively affected.

The Ministry also underspent on a project to supply water to schools. E2 million was approved and released but expenditure only amounted to E247,000, an under-expenditure of 88 percent.

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

Government had lost E1.04 million paying salaries for four immigration officers who had been suspended from work, three of them on full pay since June 2014. No information was forthcoming about their cases and whether criminal proceedings had taken place against them. In another case the salary of an officer had been paid for three months after his death.

MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY

A conveyancer defrauded the ministry of E3.29 million by submitting false information relating to the transfer of legal titles on two properties in 2014. The two properties were valued at E34 million and E21 million but the Registrar of Deeds was told they were valued at E2 million and E1 million. The conveyancer who was not named in the report should have paid transfer duty of E3.29 million but only E20,000 has been recovered. The Auditor General could not find transfer duty certificates when auditing the revenue collections by the Deeds Registry.

STRATEGIC OIL RESERVE FUND: An amount of E35.82 million was transferred from the Strategic Oil Reserve Fund without following proper procedures. The money was transferred on 25 August 2016 and based on a 3 percent interest rate it had earned an interest amounting to E1,077,571 by six months later. The Auditor General was not given any evidence supporting or explaining the transfer of the funds even though the public accounts committee (PAC) had ordered that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy should provide documentation that the withdrawal and transfer was done with the permission of the Ministry of Finance. The Auditor General concluded the money was taken illegally.

MINISTRY FOR TINKHUNDLA ADMINISTRATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Water project material amounting to E432,033 had gone missing at Mangcongco Inkhundla. The auditors discovered that water project materials amounting to E221,033 had remained unused for seven years. The material was kept at an Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) camp situated in Mangcongco. This, according to the auditors, indicated that bills of quantities were not used at every stage of the water project to give appropriate quantities and to correctly define the extent of work based on drawings and specifications of the project. The bills of quantities, according to the report, should have been prepared by an expert such as a water engineer.

According to delivery notes, the material was acknowledged to have been delivered. Therefore, the material could have been stolen after delivery. The report expressed a concern on the weak controls which existed within the ministry, whereby funds were released without ensuring that technical experts were involved when the material was quantified and released. The ministry also displayed a care-free attitude by not designing a follow-up mechanism of the project to ensure that the project was executed and completed properly. The ministry was negligent in taking care of scarce public funds.

EMPOWERMENT FUND: An amount of E3.67 million for the Empowerment Fund was used by the Ministry for Tinkhundla Administration and Development without rules and regulations or any documented control. The report concluded there was a risk that the fund could be used for purposes not intended.

Swaziland's lack of financial prudence has been noted internationally. Each year the United States reviews governments that receive its assistance help ensure US taxpayer money is used appropriately and to provide opportunities to dialogue with governments on the importance of fiscal transparency.

The Fiscal Transparency Report on Swaziland for 2017 stated, 'During the review period, budget documents were available to the general public, including online. While budget documents provided a general picture of government revenues and expenditures, revenues from natural resources and land leases were not included in the budget.

'Expenditures to support the royal family were included in the budget but lacked specific detail and were not subject to the same oversight as the rest of the budget. Information in the budget was considered generally reliable, and the supreme audit institution's reports of the government's annual financial statements were published within a reasonable period of time, but some budget items were not subject to audit.

'The criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, but the opacity of the procedures, which involve submitting applications for licenses directly to the king, cast doubt on whether the government actually followed the law in practice. Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was not always publicly available.

'Swaziland's fiscal transparency would be improved by: providing more detail on expenditures and revenues in the budget, particularly for off-budget accounts, natural resource revenues, and royal family expenditures; subjecting the entire budget to audit and oversight; demonstrating applicable laws are followed in practice for awarding natural resource extraction contracts and licenses; and making basic information on natural resource extraction awards publicly available.'

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