EDITORIAL: Give Auditor General the proper tools
EVERY YEAR for a few weeks, the public glare is on the Auditor General’s annual report which evokes laughter and would-be comic relief were it not for the seriousness of its contents.
Yet, year after year, regardless to the administration in office, it seems as if there is little regard for the breaches highlighted with no apparent sanctions applied.
This comes at a time when Barbadians, given their comments on social media, the call-in radio and television programmes, or letters to the newspapers, are demanding better management of public resources to positively change their lives.
That is why the role and relevance of the Audit Office must go beyond fiscal accountability. It must now assume a proactive oversight function if we are to successfully fight corruption, fraud, abuse and wastage of the public’s resources while evaluating service delivery, a long-standing public irritant. At the same time, there is a glaring need for continuous auditing to demand managerial accountability.
No one expects Auditor General Leigh Trotman to comment on the merits of Government policy, but rather to ensure that legislation and Government policy are adhered to by focusing on financial statement audits and performance audits to attest that all programmes are efficiently and effectively implemented.
While there has been increased public interest in calling for greater accountability and transparency from Government, it is also welcoming to see the efforts by the Audit Office and in particular the Auditor General himself to undertake greater public engagement. This is a far cry from previous years when the office appeared to be aloof from the public which it serves. While the law requires that the Audit Office reports to Parliament, it is the public which will ultimately judge its performance.
As part of its 160th anniversary, the Audit Office has embarked on some public outreach such as the lecture delivered last night by Mr Trotman. We hope more will be done by exposing its senior officers in various public for.
But while greater public outreach is important, we believe that the Auditor General must be given all the required tools to do an effective job: finances and well-qualified human resources.
Given the ever-increasing demands, the Auditor General’s staff must be trained in new accounting and auditing standards, while major audits and special projects must be funded. We cannot expect him to report on weaknesses in Government’s business continuity and the inadequacy of its risk management if he does not have the personnel with the required skills set.
With the increasing application of information technology across the public sector, we will expect the Audit Office to look at the security risks and control processes to find any weaknesses and deficiencies.
The public will be well served when the Auditor General’s office is so equipped that it can be proactive in its efforts to stem any wrongdoing and malpractices.