NEWS & COMMUNICATION Results of the first Annual Public Sector Reporting Awards have been published [ Back to the News & Communication Page ] The Southern African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA) has introduced important awards in the public sector to recognize the pursuit of excellence in annual reports published by all provincial and national departments. The Awards are called the Annual Public Sector Reporting Awards (or SAIGA Reporting Awards). The Public Finance Management Act requires national and provincial departments to adhere to a new reporting framework. As from the year ended 31 March 2001, departments published balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements and explanatory notes to these statements. The format and disclosure requirements of these financial statements differ significantly from the appropriation accounts previously published. The Annual Public Sector Reporting Awards project produces eleven awards: one for the best report of a national department nine for the best provincial department in each province an eleventh award is made for the department obtaining the overall highest score. The winners for the financial year ended 31 March 2001 are as follows: Professor Dieter Gloeck, Executive President of SAIGA and Chairperson of the Award Committee praised the high scoring departments and stated that their achievements had set a standard or touchstone which will inspire others to improve. This will bode well for increased transparency and public accountability. Special mention should also be made of the national Department of Trade & Industry, being one of three departments (apart from the overall winner and the Western Cape winner) which achieved a score of above 90 percent. The overall average score recorded by all departments is 70% (27 departments did not qualify as their audit reports contained either a disclaimer or an adverse opinion). A total of 47 departments scored above 70%. “Taking into account that this is the first year that financial statements had to be drawn up, an entry score so to speak, it is clear that great progress has been made towards improving public accountability and transparency” Gloeck says. He also points out that departmental reports generally contain more information than the annual financial statements of listed companies. The main reason for this is that performance information is also being presented in public sector statements. Although this requirement was not yet fully applicable in the year under review, many departments already include substantial performance information in their statements. Compared to the standard format of private sector audit reports, the audit reports by the Auditor-General also provide a much more detailed account of the audit findings. Efforts need to be made to make the general public more aware of the existence of the annual reports of public sector entities. These reports contain a wealth of information that the public will find interesting and informative. It will also contribute towards reducing the “service delivery expectation gap” as Gloeck labels it. Ideally, all departmental reports should be published in electronic format on the government website. The SAIGA Reporting Awards will be an annual event. This will measure further progress made and identify emerging trends. SAIGA and the Offices of both the Accountant-General and the Auditor-General are confident that the project will contribute towards increasing the visibility of public sector accounts and incite departments to compete for higher standards. [ END ] Background information The Awards have been tailored according to similar projects and practices world-wide. SAIGA is managing this project with the support and co-operation of the Accountant-General as well as the Auditor-General. The Award Panel and the Technical Award Committee is constituted from SAIGA office bearers, experts in the field of public sector reporting, representatives of the Office of the Accountant-General and the Office of the Auditor-General. The fact that the Awards are managed and administered by an independent Institute which has been active in the public arena for the last fourteen years adds the much desired elements of independence and credibility to the Awards. By-products of the Awards are the development of additional performance criteria (in the field of accountability and reporting) and benchmarking of reporting practices. The results of the evaluation process and the information so gathered will assist with the development of further guidelines for reporting and an increased public awareness of changes to the government’s reporting practices. Highly relevant developments are aligned to this project: i.e. the foundation of the Accounting Standards Board, introduction of internationally best accounting practices and higher compatibility of financial statements between the private and public sectors. Criteria for the Awards Research by the Technical Award Committee found that the qualitative characteristics as defined by the Public Sector Committee of the International Federation of Accountants were the most useful reference point in deciding on the criteria in awarding the annual public sector reporting award. Qualitative characteristics are the attributes that make the information provided in financial statements useful to users. They are applicable to financial statements, regardless of the basis of accounting used to prepare the financial statements. The four principal qualitative characteristics are understandability, relevance, reliability and comparability. The resultant criteria selected and weights used in assessing the financial statements and key issues in the annual reports for 2001, are summarized in the table below. Criteria and weights for annual reports and annual financial statements Other items contained in the annual report, but not necessarily in the prescribed format of the annual financial statements, were also considered for the award (see bottom of the table above). These items were selected based on the view of the relative importance of these items in the annual report as a whole, as well as the anticipated future importance of the individual items. An adequate weight of 55 marks was awarded to these items. Financial statements published with an audit report that contained a disclaimer or an adverse opinion, were disqualified from the Awards. [ Back to the News & Communication Page ]
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