Sunday editorial was not fully informed of the facts regarding the Audit Office
I refer to your Sunday edition’s July 1 editorial, parts of which remind me of other commentaries on the ‘Appointments fiasco’ at the Audit Office of Guyana (and not the ‘Office of the Auditor General’) as not being fully informed of the facts surrounding this constitutional entity.
For example, that the Audit Office recently became autonomous may be misconstrued as not having been a constitutional and independent entity from the beginning. The Audit Office of Guyana was so established by the Audit Act of 2004 – which, amongst other things, describes the specific role to be played by the Public Accounts Committee. One can therefore reflect on the quality of that committee’s performance since then, and certainly now.
However, the fact is that the majority administration used its misinformed authority to perpetrate the stratagem of placing the Audit Office of Guyana (and other similar entities) on the Schedule attached to the Fiscal and Financial Management Accountability Act. What has happened recently is merely a correction of the preceding illegality.
Note that since the fundamental rationale of the Audit Act, 2004, was to remove the Office from under the prior supervision/direction of the Minister responsible for Finance, no more comprehensive conflicts of interests could have been propagated amongst the relevant stakeholders than its reinstatement within a ministry – again a reflection possibly of the majoritarian ineptitude of the Public Accounts Committee.
Next, there appears to be misapprehensions about the staffing structure of the Audit Office. For example there is no position titled ‘Deputy Auditor General.’ The management structure is made up as follows: Auditor General – 1; Audit Director – 4 (including one for Public Works); Audit Manager – 5; in addition to four supervisory positions, that is in the technical auditing component of the Audit Office.
One also detects that some commentators (including officials) regard the issue of ‘conflict of interest’ as constituting an ad hominem attack, but hopefully your recent publication of the Conflict of Interest Code (along with the Oath of Professional Conduct) if read carefully, should invite more focused attention on the wider potential for conflicts of interest amongst the staff of the Audit Office as a whole, over and above that of an official spousal relationship.
Unlike some of my colleagues, I would argue that the evidence reveals that the most ‘conflicted’ of all the officials must be the incumbent Auditor General (ag), who should therefore be removed.
Additionally, the Public Accounts Committee may have been quite deficient over the past years in not ensuring that the Audit Office itself is audited, as provided for in the law. Such an examination would hopefully have brought to the committee’s attention the technical under-capacity of the auditing personnel, amongst other defects.
According to the body of Regulations made under the Audit Act, the projected total staffing of over 220 personnel should include 24 senior management and 32 supervisory positions respectively, with approximately 40 non-auditing personnel. At the time of its transition into a constitutional entity the overall qualification profiles of the management and supervisory levels of the Audit Office included the following (it is hoped that the situation has since improved):
ACCA – 1; Part ACCA – 1; Degree in Accountancy, UG – 4 (includes the Auditor General (ag));
Diploma in Accountancy, UG – 5; with others at very basic accounting levels and/or none at all.
Few, if any, local private accounting/auditing firms would have employed such a disproportion of under-achievers to operate at such critical levels of examination.
Why would those who boast of our country being models to be emulated in other operational areas, not wish, at least, to observe the auditing standards, including those of integrity, and explicit independence, as required by our own codes and by the relevant international community.
This is clearly much wider than a political issue. It is in fact a more fundamental definition of who we are as professionals and as leaders. If the latter do not lead by example, how can followers be expected to substantively embrace a culture of accountability?
When was the last time that the operations of the Audit Office of Guyana have been audited?
E B John