All capital and major maintenance works were physically verified for the 2003 Auditor General’s report
The Kaieteur News carried two comments from the Auditor General which caught my eye and which require a clarification. The first relates to his reference to the 2003 Auditor General’s report (which I had prepared) that “there is hardly any physical inspection compared with mine.“ This is totally untrue in that all capital works as well as major maintenance works were physically verified. The difference was that if all was well, there was no mention in the report. The current Auditor General was part of that effort in his capacity as Assistant Auditor General, and I am surprised that he could have made such a statement.
There are two types of reporting: (a) full reporting of the results whether they reflect negative findings or not; and (b) exception reporting where only deficiencies and shortcomings are highlighted. Drawing from my experience working with the United Nations in Africa, I opted for exception reporting for 2003. The reason was simple: to avoid the reporting being too bulky and cumbersome to read, and to assist the reader to grasp the essentials of the report. This is standard practice and conforms to international best practices. In fact, the United Nations has word limits for all its reports.
Prior to 2003, all of my reports beginning from 1992 onwards were written in the full reporting format. This was deliberately done because we had just come out of an era of lack of accountability, and the public needed to know in a very detailed way how their funds were expended. But as time elapsed and accountability became a settled arrangement, the merits of full reporting had to be re-evaluated. The 2003 report was based on that re-evaluation as well as my international exposure.
The second comment by the Auditor General relates to his assertion that he was the only person that did VFM audits and that he had done two of them. A performance audit, sometimes referred to as VFM audit, is normally carried out by national audit offices. It is an attempt to ascertain to what extent the resources of an organisation are utilised in achieving stated objectives in an economical, efficient and effective manner (hence the value for money concept). Since 1992, the Audit Office has been conducting performance audits but an integrated approach was taken in reporting the results. Many of the comments contained in the Auditor General’s report from 1992 onwards were in the nature of performance audit findings. There was a legal restriction in that the Auditor General could have only reported separately on any matters incidental to his duties under the relevant legislation.
Notwistanding this, during my tenure, several special reports were issued that reflected the results of performance audits. Two examples will suffice:
(a) The Essequibo Road Project where it was discovered that there was short-shipment of stone, inferior quality of stone, inflated prices and falsification of invoices, among others. This resulted in the World Bank cancelling the project; and
(b) The illegal exportation of dolphins and the disappearance of $50 million from the Wildlife Fund.
For a long time, I have been advocating for stand-alone, dedicated performance audit reports, and I am happy to have included in the draft Audit Act provision for this to be done. The draft Act became the Audit Act 2004.
However, I did not have the good fortune to implement many of the good aspects of the new Act because I demitted office at the time when it was about to be made operational. I went to the United Nations and advocated a similar approach, and at the time of leaving, I had prepared a draft report on the matter for consideration by the UN Board of Auditors before submission to the General Assembly.
It has been seven years since the Audit Act was passed with provision for undertaking performance audits and issuing stand-alone reports.
The Auditor General has so far issued only two such reports. Whether that reflects credit on his part, for the topics selected and for the quality and effectiveness of the reports, I will leave for the reader to judge for himself/herself.
Finally, I wish to state that I lectured to the Auditor General when he was reading for his accounting degree at UG. Upon completion of his degree, he was promoted to the position of Assistant Auditor General ahead of those who were senior to him but who did not have the requisite qualification for appointment to the post.
In 1998, he was sent to participate in a nine-month audit fellowship programme with the Canadian Audit Office. As his supervisor, I also imparted as much on-the-job training to him as possible. I might be critical of his work but it is all done in the best interest of the country. I am therefore taken aback by the two statements he has made above, trying to boost his own performance and in the process seeking to fault my work.