Auditor General confirmed after acting for seven years
In a surprise move, the government today confirmed Deodat Sharma to the post of Auditor General after he had been acting in the position for seven years.
Sharma was confirmed to the post by President Donald Ramotar during a simple ceremony at the Office of the President.
Members of the media were only informed of the swearing-in ceremony when they turned up for a 9 am weekly post-cabinet press briefing with Dr. Roger Luncheon. The latter event was delayed to allow the president to swear in Sharma. Sharma’s wife and children along with Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh were present.
The media was not given an opportunity to ask the Auditor General any question.
In brief remarks after the oath was taken Ramotar said that Sharma has been acting in that position for a while. “He has already demonstrated that he is doing his work without fear or favour and I expect that he continues in the same vain and hopefully with his oversight that our public accounts will improve”.
Sharma in his remarks said that he was happy that the government has placed confidence in the Audit office. “I am thankful not for myself alone but the staff in the Audit office because without their help I could not have brought the accounts up to date for the last three years”.
He noted that it is important that there be a substantive Auditor General. He added that some Ministers have said that they use the Auditor General’s report as a management tool.
The confirmation came amid growing pressure for an adequately qualified Auditor General to be appointed to the post and in the backdrop of Sharma’s approach of the mandatory public service retirement age of 55. He is presently 54. If he hadn’t been confirmed he would have had to retire shortly.
His confirmation means he could potentially stay as Auditor General until the age of 65. The government had not moved over the last seven years to find a suitably qualified candidate as it appeared very comfortable with Sharma as AG.
Sharma’s latest annual report on the Public Accounts of Guyana has been criticised for being soft on the government and not tackling serious issues.
Sources say that the government in confirming Sharma wanted to avoid the dilemma that would be posed if the next senior-most employee of the Auditor General’s Office is appointed to the top position. That employee is the wife of the Minister of Finance and though there have been complaints for several years over the conflict of interest posed by her present role at the office were she to accede to the top post there would be no question that either she or the Minister of Finance would have to stand down.