Stephen Langa

The Swazi treasury’s missing millions of rand from last month have become billions this week as unaccounted government funds and tax revenues multiply.

A report by the country’s auditor-general, Phestecia Nxumalo, found discrepancies amounting to R3.2 billion in the accountant-general’s review of government income and spending for the past year.

No one in the secretive government was willing to talk about the missing money that represents a sum that is more than the government’s current fiscal reserves.

“The (accountant-general’s) reports are owned by the finance ministry and, therefore, not within our mandate to discuss in the media space,” Vusi Dlamini, the director of communications for the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) that collects the country’s taxes, said yesterday.

Nxumalo reviewed claims by the SRA of monies deposited in the Swaziland treasury with the treasury’s own accounts contained in the accountant-general’s review of the government’s 2012/13 fiscal year. The SRA claimed to have deposited R2.5bn more with the treasury than was reflected in the treasury’s own statement. Nxumalo had found another discrepancy of R700 million, media reports said. The total unaccounted for sum was R3 215 144 807.81.

“I examined the SRA Revenue Collection Report and noted that the revenue balances were different from 2012/2013 balances reported in the Statement of Revenue prepared by the accountant-general,” Nxumalo said in her review.

“To my understanding, the revenue balances contained in the SRA report and treasury statement should be similar because the SRA is the source of the data used by the accountant-general’s office in the compilation of its report, unless the differences arose for other reasons,” she said.

The “other reasons” may involve off-the-books spending by government leadership.

The Swazi business community, long used to a national leadership that is not accountable to an electorate, suspects the money has been pilfered.

“This being Swaziland, we know who has the keys to the treasury to do what he wants. The auditor-general admitted as much last month when R220m went missing,” said a real estate developer who requested anonymity.

Last month, the auditor-general reported to Parliament that R220m could not be accounted for at the treasury.

“The matter is sensitive because it involves the labadzala [Swazi leadership],” she told MPs.

No explanation has been given for the missing amount, which is the equivalent of monies promised to all Swaziland’s elderly in pensions this financial year.

The auditor-general noted in her report that the accountant-general had made no effort to explain the R3.2bn discrepancy.

“The accountant-general did not take any measures to address the issues with a view to rectify the anomaly,” the report said. Consequently, the whereabouts of the missing money remains a mystery.

Swaziland is a poor country where two-thirds of the population live in chronic poverty, but the government does not prioritise spending on economic development. Government money is directed to salaries of government workers and security forces and big-ticket items like the new but unused R3bn King Mswati III International Airport.