The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament is currently seized with the scrutiny of reports by the Auditor General. The latest reports tabled are for the year 2011. They contain some damning findings on how public resources have been managed in this country. While there have been improvements in some areas compared with the 2009 and 2010 audit findings, government entities have generally not implemented recommendations from the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee. The same problems recur because the Public Accounts Committee has been found wanting when it comes to ensuring that recommendations are acted upon. National Assembly rules spell out the mandate of the PAC as that of “examination of the sums granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure and of such other accounts laid before Parliament as the committee may think fit”. Together with the Finance and Economic Development Portfolio Committee, the Public Accounts Committee is central to parliamentary budget oversight. The following are some of the key findings and recommendations made by the Auditor General on the appropriation and parastatal accounts since 2009: failure to follow proper tender procedures; unvouched expenditures; poor management and control of assets; poor internal control systems; poor revenue collection systems; failure by some ministries to submit financial statements for audit; fraudulent activities; and wasteful expenditures in some ministries. In parastatals, the common problems relate to poor corporate governance structures, poor policies and procedures and violation of procurement procedures. Parliament, as the custodian of the Constitution, must ensure provisions of Chapter 17 that speak to public finance management are implemented. Section 299 of this chapter requires Parliament to monitor and oversee expenditure by the State and all commissions and institutions and agencies of Government at every level in order to ensure that all revenues are accounted for, all expenditure has been properly incurred and any limits and conditions on appropriations have been observed. Section 308 of the Constitution outlines the duties of custodians of public funds and assets. It says an Act of Parliament must provide for the speedy detection of breaches of the rules pertaining to the management of public funds and assets and the disciplining of and punishment of persons responsible for any such breaches. While the Public Finance Management Act and the Criminal Code have some provisions to deal with such breaches, these are not adequate. One area in the Public Finance Management Act that can further be strengthened is to specify the penalties for non-compliance with the legal requirement to submit monthly and quarterly financial reports to Parliament by ministries and departments. Unless the Public Accounts Committee reviews the status of implementation of Auditor General’s findings and recommendations and other commitments made by government officials, the public may not appreciate the importance and consequences of the Committee’s hearings. Implementation of Public Accounts Committee recommendations is one measure of the committee's usefulness and effectiveness. There is the issue of capacity within the Public Accounts Committee and the Office of the Auditor General to investigate issues to do with poor management of public resources. While the Auditor General must be commended for her efforts to improve on the timeliness of reports, still the reports are being tabled in Parliament way after the statutory deadline. Among other factors, the delays are explained by limited financial and human resources in the Office of the Auditor General. The Public Accounts Committee is also poor resourced in terms of human expertise and finance. It is the duty of Parliament to address this issue of resources. Section 325 of the Constitution requires government to ensure that adequate funds are provided to Parliament to enable it and its committees to meet whenever necessary; and to all other institutions of the State and Government to enable them to perform their obligations under the Constitution. Apart from enforcing social accountability in Government, strengthening policy and legal framework on public finance management and enhancing the capacity of the Public Accounts Committee and Auditor General’s office, the other ways to enforce implementations of recommendations from the Committee and Auditor General include enforcing the rules of Parliament; production of implementation action plans by ministries and departments; and preparation and tabling of formal tracking reports. Without enforcing implementation of Auditor General Findings and recommendations, the work of the Public Accounts Committee becomes and academic exercise. There is too much of business as usual approach in ministries, departments and parastatals. Parliament must therefore bite more to address the perennial problems of corruption, abuse and mismanagement of public resources. The present state of affairs whereby senior government officials wilfully disregard Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee recommendations, and even get promoted when its public knowledge that they have mismanaged public resources, cannot be allowed to continue. John Makamure is the Executive Director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: