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ON THE RIGHT: Time for appropriate controls

Reginald Farley

ON THE RIGHT: Time for appropriate controls

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We want to salute the Auditor General’s department on the continued fine work it is doing. We think that that kind of reporting, that kind of review, is important for accountability and transparency and it is really very similar to what happens in private entities, where the auditor goes in and reviews the accounts and advises management if there are any concerns.
It is of course always troubling when the Auditor General in his report raises concerns about the nature of reporting, the level of compliance with existing rules and regulations and other matters.
Certainly, at ICAB we have quite a number of members in accounting in the Public Service and we think that they are doing a fine job, and we want to salute them. Some years ago the Government increased the number of posts and there are therefore an increasing number of accountants in the Public Service at appropriate levels.
We are, however, concerned that in some cases the level of support which they require to function effectively isn’t there. If you have one chartered accountant in a big department and the staff, the computers and other resources are not there to allow for the work to be effectively undertaken, then you will have a problem.
Part of it is a resource issue, but we want to say up front that we think that while there are still these areas of concerns and problems, we feel that with the improved technical capacity being built up that over time we should be able to see a reduction in these areas of concern.
What we see arising from all of these reports are two things really. There is a need for a strong internal audit function within the Public Service.
We need to have an internal audit function that is properly structured, that is supported by top management and that is well resourced, and that perhaps starting from the Ministry of Finance there can be a central internal audit core that can allocate resources to the individual ministries, starting with the bigger revenue entities, the bigger spending ministries.
Obviously some ministries are more at risk than others, but internal audit helps to allow for more detailed checking on compliance with laws and regulations, checking on the financial activity, and we think that will help.
Each statutory board should have a committee that liaises with the external auditor, as well as supervises the internal auditor.
Secondly, we think that arising out of the Auditor General’s report there really needs to be stronger follow-up; that in the same way that report is published, we should also be able to see what has happened.
So, yes, we identify these problems, and it is then for the head of department to put measures in place to correct those areas and for us to be able to report back that we are satisfied that appropriate controls are in place.
• Reginald Farley is executive director, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB).