Local accounting body urged to give opinion on audit office appointment

The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA) is being called upon to give its opinion on the recent appointment of Gitanjali Singh, wife of Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh to the position of Audit Director.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Carl Greenidge said he has written to the professional accounting body seeking an opinion on the appointment.

Meanwhile, this newspaper has also learned that a top accountant with a major local accounting firm has lodged two complaints with the ICA regarding the same issue.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Greenidge confirmed that he sent the letter and was awaiting word from the body.

He noted that the Audit Office has a professional relationship with the accreditation body and would have to adhere to its standards with regard to policies governing conflicts of interest.

On Saturday, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon had said that he saw no conflict of interest in the appointment of the minister’s wife to the senior post.

The main opposition, APNU, had called the action of the governing party in facilitating the appointments unprincipled, and said it was likely to “undermine the integrity” of the Audit Office.

The government and opposition members of the PAC had previously been split on the appointments, which were proposed by acting Auditor General Deodat Sharma. In particular, opposition members charged that the promotion to Audit Director of Gitanjali Singh would present a conflict of interest, given the responsibilities that go with her post.

At a recent press conference, AFC party executive Moses Nagamootoo said the party’s call for a review of the PAC’s vote is based on two factors: the highly unethical nature of one of the appointments and flawed voting based on ill advice.

At that press conference, Nagamootoo noted that the Audit Office serves as a “check and balance” mechanism to ensure that public monies are properly accounted for and that all transactions regarding public funds are above board.

He said the Finance Ministry and National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) are agencies of the state that disburse public funds. “It, therefore, makes good sense that the relationship between the Audit Office and the other two be seen as independent. Not only must they operate independently but to satisfy public scrutiny, they must also appear to be operating independently,” he said, noting that the Minister of Finance is the chairman of NICIL’s Board.

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