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EDITORIAL: Time for serious look at financial failings


EDITORIAL: Time for serious look at financial failings

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THE ANNUAL REPORT of Auditor General Leigh Trotman is out and makes compelling reading.

It also says both Parliament and the public must pay greater attention to his findings and recommendations.

The Auditor General is a key pillar in our governance, given the role and importance and relevance of the office. The demand for greater checks on the public purse is evident given the many issues in his report.

Mr Trotman’s office must be fearless and fair in the pursuit of its mandate of satisfying the statutory requirement made by Parliament. A more alert public today demands greater accountability and compliance from all Government ministries and departments, statutory corporations and state-controlled entities.

A perusal of this latest report will evoke some measure of amusement and comic relief given its contents about the behaviour of some areas of the public sector. It could also make some people go into depression on realising the level of non-compliance that takes place.

We have become accustomed over years to the Auditor General’s report being laid in Parliament, aspects of some of his findings reported in the media, and a few comments made. Often the report seems to go the way of file 13 but this cannot be allowed to continue.

Mr Trotman is not on a fault-finding exercise. His is a requirement to find weaknesses and irregularities and to ensure tighter control in pending taxpayers’ money. It is about highlighting deficiencies and recommending corrective measures.

Yet, one would have to conclude that some of the Auditor General’s reviews are ignored based on the report and its recommendations. Every year there is a repetition of instances of misuse and abuse.

If Mr Trotman does not hold Government to account for the way it uses public funds, then we will have a major problem. If his office does not pinpoint the weaknesses in the system and help career officers to improve their performance, then who will. If the Auditor General’s office does not safeguard the taxpayers’ interests, then there will be serious problems.

The only way to guarantee propriety, effectiveness and efficiency of the country’s management systems is through transparency, fairness with procurement methods, and by undertaking the necessary risk analysis. But the Auditor General must get the full cooperation of the entire system.

The process of giving an audit opinion on Government’s financial statements involves forming a view on the reliability of not only its management systems, but its governance. The Auditor General must be seen and treated as a listed private sector company would its external auditors.

This is simply too important to the well-being of the Government and by extension the country. The office is there to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent both wisely and well.