‘Weak’ accounting job
ACCOUNTING PRACTICES in “many” Government departments and ministries are not up to scratch. Acting Accountant General Dane Coppin raised concern about “weak” internal controls in these agencies. He has also red-flagged the absence of internal checks and surprise inspections.
The issues were raised in the Report of the Accountant General for financial year 2014-2015. Investigations revealed similar concerns were highlighted in the 2013-2014 report, which like the most recent, contained financial statements that were “presented to the Auditor General for auditing”.
Reporting on internal reviews of Government departments and ministries, the Accountant General said: “The audits completed during the financial year revealed that internal controls within many departments and ministries remain weak and greater attention must be placed on improving these systems.
“The electronic accounting and reporting systems, which are an integral part of the management and accounting functions, are still not used by many senior officers in the accounts section.
“This results in many errors and omissions, which should be identified early, being undetected until identified by the Treasury staff or Auditor General during their reviews and audits.”
He added: “The Financial Management And Audit Act requires that internal checks and surprise inspections be performed by the various ministries and departments, however, they are still not being conducted.”
Coppin also said there was “a continued need for management training at the supervisory level in most ministries/departments”. The “lack of training at this level is impacting negatively, in many instances, on the operations of these departments”, he added.
He noted, though, that “there has been some improvement as it relates to the level of enforcement and/or implementation of recommendations made by the Accountant General in the audit reports prepared and sent to the accounting officers in the various ministries”.
These recommendations draw on the requirements of the Financial Management Audit Act and Financial Rules, as well as on international internal audit standards.
Ongoing assistance “continues to be provided to departments based on individual request and as part of the normal review cycle of the internal audit unit”.
However, the Accountant General said “with the increased number of requests and the limited resources of the department, it is still an uphill fight to achieve the level of assistance which is required by ministries and departments”.
Training of staff in the area of internal audit “also remains a challenge”.
It was in April 2007 that Government moved its accounting and reporting systems from the cash basis to the accrual basis. This saw the Financial Administration And Audit Act repealed and replaced by the Financial Management And Audit Act.
New reporting requirements were established, including the Accountant General having to present a “full set of accrual statements including a statement of financial performance, a statement of financial position, a statement of cash flow, a statement of accounting policies and supporting notes to the financial statement”.