BACKGROUND OF THE SAIGA REPORTING AWARDS The winning annual report of the thirteenth SAIGA Reporting Awards is the Department of Transport and Public Works (Western Cape) with a score of 756 points out of a total of 784 points (96.43%) Background to the Annual Public Sector Reporting Awards The Southern African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA) has identified the need to introduce awards that will recognise the pursuit of excellence in the annual reports published by public sector departments. These awards must be seen as a contribution to assist Treasury and public sector departments to meet the objectives of the Public Finance Management Act and related regulations (such as the Treasury Regulations) that aim to advance accountability and transparency in the public sector. It is essential that the awards attempt to ensure competitiveness and provide an equal opportunity to win the award(s) in order to achieve the primary objective. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) aims to secure transparency, accountability and sound management of the Revenue, Expenditure, Assets & Liabilities (REAL). The reporting requirements form a critical part in securing accountability and transparency. Stakeholders are kept informed through various monthly and quarterly reporting mechanisms, but the annual requirements are the main feature of the still accountability chain. According to the PFMA the accounting officer has to prepare financial statements and an annual report. Financial statements are defined as consisting of at least the following: a balance sheet (financial position) an income statement (financial performance) a cash-flow statement any other statements that may be prescribed and any notes to these statements.   These financial statements have to be prepared in terms of Generally Recognised Accounting Practices (GRAP) (PFMA Section 40(b)). Although the preparation of consolidated financial statements (the responsibility of the Treasuries has been delayed by the Minister of Finance in terms of powers given to him in Section 95 of the PFMA (refer to Government Gazette 21053), this delay does not apply to the preparation of financial by the various departments. It is envisaged that transitional arrangements will facilitate the harmonisation with international best practice, rather than a “big bang” approach to instantly reform accounting and reporting practices. Therefore, for the year ending 31 March 2001, the focus of the evaluation criteria recommended for making the awards was on the technical correctness and compliance with the prescribed specimen and guidelines for the annual financial statements. It is further envisaged that in future years the focus will move towards a more qualitative judgment of reporting on performance issues to be contained in the annual report. Explanation of the logo of the Awards The logo of the Annual Public Sector Reporting Awards was chosen to symbolise various important criteria which this project focuses on. Transparency: Good reporting practices advance transparency and provide insight into the operational aspects of the departments - therefore the logo is designed to produce a “see-through” effect. Openness: Similar to the concept of transparency. Information is not blocked, but the financial reports open the doors for the users of financial information to gain insight - therefore the logo is designed so that one side is “open”. This is South Africa: The reporting guidelines, according to which the financial statements of the provincial and national departments are prepared, were issued by South Africa’s National Treasury. Although they discount international developments, they are also truly South African - therefore the logo displays the colours of South Africa’s national flag. Holistic: Financial information needs to be presented in such a way that the user thereof is given the “whole picture” - therefore the logo is arranged in a circle, which symbolises the holistic approach of financial reporting or the “whole picture”. Explanation of the trophies chosen for the Award As from 2007, winners in the various categories also receive a trophy in the form of a glass pyramid. This shape (pyramid) symbolises the departments’ (upward) pursuit of excellence. The pyramid also encloses the concept of three points, drawing a parallel to the so-called three Es  (effectiveness, efficiency and economy). The chosen material for the trophy is glass: a symbol of the PFMA concept that underlies the reporting function: transparency. The overlaying pyramids of glass indicate that more than one report is produced to make up the financial statements. Criteria used in making the awards A criterion constitutes an objective that has to be met in order to ensure that financial statements supply useful information to the users thereof. By identifying the various criteria applicable in general and to each component of the financial statements, it will be possible to assess whether the reporting practices followed provide useful information to the users. Research conducted by the Technical Award Committee found that the qualitative characteristics as defined by the Public Sector Committee of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) 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, are summarized in the table below. For financial statements drawn up in respect of the year ended 31 March 2013 (2014 Awards), National Treasury again issued an updated new set of guidelines for the preparation of annual reports of provincial and national departments. SAIGA's Award Committee consequently incorporated these new guidelines into their evaluation model. The thirteenth Reporting Awards were based on a total of 784 points (2002:410; 2003:540; 2004:670; 2005: 696; 2006:716; 2007:700; 2008:748; 2009:756; 2010:769; 2011:754; 2012:776; 2013:771). 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 83 points 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. In previous years the focus was still on the technical correctness and compliance with the prescribed specimen and guidelines for the financial statements. It is envisaged that in future years the focus will move towards a more qualitative judgement on reporting on performance issues to be contained in the annual report. However, this assumes basic compliance is in place, importantly also compliance related to financial reporting. While moving towards reporting on performance, the need for monitoring compliance remains essential. But the shift towards performance is obviously going to become far more important in future years, and needs to be reflected in the evaluation criteria for future reporting awards. Understandability: Information is understandable when users might reasonably be expected to comprehend its meaning. For this purpose, users are assumed to have a reasonable knowledge of the entity's activities and the environment in which it operates, and to be willing to study the information. Information about complex matters should not be excluded from the financial statements merely on the grounds that it may be too difficult for certain users to understand. Relevance - general: Information is relevant to users if it can be used to assist in evaluating past, present or future events or in confirming, or correcting, past evaluations. In order to be relevant, information must also be timely. Relevance - timeliness: The usefulness of the financial statement is impaired if it is not made available to users within a reasonable period after the reporting date. Ongoing factors such as the complexity of an entity's operations are not sufficient reason for failing to report on a timely basis. If there is an undue delay in the reporting of information it may lose its relevance. To provide information on a timely basis it may often be necessary to report before all aspects of a transaction are known, thus impairing reliability. Conversely, if reporting is delayed until all aspects are known, the information may be highly reliable but of little use to users who have had to make decisions in the interim. In achieving a balance between relevance and reliability, the overriding consideration is how best to satisfy the decision-making needs of users. Reliability - general & accuracy: Reliable information is free from material error and bias, and can be depended on by users to represent faithfully that which it purports to represent or could reasonably be expected to represent. Reliability - completeness: The information in financial statements should be complete within the bounds of materiality and cost. An omission can cause information to be false or misleading and thus unreliable and deficient in terms of its relevance Comparability: Information in a financial statement is comparable when users are able to identify similarities and differences between that information and information in other reports. Comparability applies to the: · comparison of financial statements of different entities; and · comparison of the financial statements of the same entity over periods of time. An important implication of the characteristic of comparability is that users need to be informed of the policies employed in the preparation of the financial statement, changes to those policies and the effects of those changes. Because users wish to compare the performance of an entity over time, it is important that the financial statement shows corresponding information for preceding periods. Categories of the awards The SAIGA’s Annual Public Sector Reporting Award s are intended to be prestigious events that will encourage both national and provincial government departments to prepare annual financial statements in compliance with statutory requirements. These annual financial statements will further: Strive to comply with both local and international reporting standards Be informative and comparable Be consistent Properly explain the financial results and the financial position of the department in relation to its performance objectives Enable users to analyse the financial results Be objective and relevant Have a good balance between comprehensiveness and brevity Be understandable and useable by the main stakeholders. Although all these criteria may not be attainable in the immediate future due to the ongoing developments of reporting standards for the public sector, they must be regarded as goals to be strived for in the future in the interests of good governance. It is essential that an award event of this kind must attempt to ensure competitiveness and provide an equal opportunity to win the award(s) in order to achieve its primary objective. With this in mind it was therefore decided to distinguish only between national and provincial departments for purposes of this award. The project produces twelve awards: one for the best report of a national department and the best provincial departments (for each of the nine provinces). Another award is made for the department obtaining the overall highest score. The twelfth award goes to the department that has consistently achieved the highest score in the past three years. Overall winner (overall highest score) Winner in the category : national Winner in the category : Eastern Cape Winner in the category : Free State Winner in the category : Gauteng Winner in the category : KwaZulu-Natal Winner in the category : Limpopo Winner in the category : Mpumalanga Winner in the category : Northern Cape Winner in the category : North West Winner in the category : Western Cape Winner in the category : most consistent The Awards have been tailored according to similar projects and practices world-wide. 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 Accountant-General and Auditor-General and academics. The fact that the Awards are managed and administered by an independent Institute which has been active in the public arena for the last sixteen years adds the much desired elements of independence and credibility to the Awards. The quality assurance relating to the technical analysis and evaluation, is done by the Department of Auditing, University of Pretoria. 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 functions of the Accounting Standards Board and its standard setting process, introduction of internationally best accounting practices, the development of Generally Recognised Accounting Practices (GRAP) and higher compatibility of financial statements between the private and public sectors. The Composition of the Award Panel The Award Panel constituted for this project will consist of the following persons: SAIGA’s Executive President SAIGA’s Secretary Representatives of the Technical Committee responsible for the evaluation of the reports Representatives from the Office of the Auditor-General Representatives from the Office of the Accountant-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 thirteen years will add the much desired elements of independence and credibility to the awards and the results of the award process. [ BACK TO THE TOP ]
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