So what’s it all about?

Tanzania’s Controller and Auditor has been receiving both bouquets and brickbats for his work in the past couple of years. For most his office is an increasingly important means of keeping government in check. Others suspect it may all just be smoke and mirrors. So what do his people do all day?

I’m just back from a rural District in Tanzania, looking at governance issues in primary education. The last school we visited was pitiable – five classrooms, two of them with dirt floors and no window or door frames for 527 students. No typos in the previous sentence.

Recurrent costs, not including teachers’ salaries, are covered by the monthly capitation grant of less than €140. Problem is, since January capitation grants for only two months have been received. That’s €280 to run the school so far this year.  Thus far this year, cash strapped parents have contributed about €147 to the school to ensure that basic standards remain within reach.

So who ya gonna call? The National Audit Office of course! The school visitors book told me that two of them were in town last week to conduct an audit on the schools, eh, finances. They come every year and never have anything bad to report. Or so the Head Teacher assumes as she is never given a copy of their report.

But, coming from the regional capital, they will need a per diem, and will probably have to stay overnight. Per diems alone for two auditors and their driver for one night? €75. Include their salaries and you can double that.

So the cost of auditing essentially petty cash expenditure on chalk and notebooks is equal to over half of the government subvention received so far this year.

Is this what the CAG is really meant to be up to?

For a similarly outraged perspective on the missed potential, see Louder than Swahili.

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