I have been reading in the news media about the audit of ExxonMobil’s US$460 million/$900 million pre-contract costs. It appears to me that this audit is now required to be completed in two months which is a date set deadline. Mention has been made that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has four auditors who can conduct the required audit.
My understanding is that this audit is focused on pre-contract cost, of which the emphasis is on investment costs incurred, from funds provided. That being said, then the emphasis should be on an audit conducted by external auditors.
Hence, it is the view that the Auditor General of Guyana should be responsible for this audit. If the Office of the Auditor General is unable to carry out this audit, then it can be tendered whereby Accounting/Audit Firms, both local and global be given the opportunity to bid and be considered for this audit. Guyana does have the audit capacity if we go this route. The end result will be the issue of an Audit Opinion on ExxonMobil’s Financial Statements pertaining to pre-contract costs. Such an Opinion will be either an Unqualified, a Qualified, a Disclaimer or an Adverse one by the Audit Firm and will be required to be concurred by the Auditor General.
On the four auditors of GRA doing this audit, it is possible, but the responsibility of this audit should be with the Auditor General who will concur with the Audit Opinion issued by the GRA’s auditors.
It is impossible to complete this audit in the next two months, hence an extension period will be required to be sought and agreed to by the relevant parties.
An audit of this dollar magnitude has to be carefully planned and be executed. These are my suggestions on the way forward for the authorities to urgently address.