Finance Minister’s wife to approve husband’s accounts in Auditor General’s Office – AFC
- Acting Auditor General not qualified for substantive position
The Alliance For Change (AFC) has noted with concern that the acting Auditor General has promoted the wife of the Minister of Finance, Gitanjali Singh, to Audit Director. The promotion, according to the AFC, has created a situation in which Dr. Ashni Singh, as Finance Minister, holds the responsibility for the preparation and certification of the financial statements of the country, which results
in a conflict of interest as his wife is responsible for auditing those financial statements…
At a press conference hosted by the Alliance For Change, Member of Parliament, Trevor Williams, who is also on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), noted that collectively four persons were promoted, including the wife of the Minister of Finance.
“Ms. Gitanjali Singh, being the only qualified accountant among the senior management in the Audit Office, is integrally involved in the auditing of statements prepared by her husband and expressing an opinion on them.
“This is a clear conflict of interest and a breach of the professional code of accountants. Both Dr. Singh and his wife are professionally qualified accountants and are members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana,” Williams noted.
He added that the AFC cannot accept that Deodat Sharma is unaware of the provisions of the Audit Act and does not know that he cannot legally do what he is now trying to do with the support of the PPP/C.
“The PPP/C is afraid that a proper functioning Audit Office would prevent the theft and corruption which now pervades this dear land.”
Underscoring that the Auditor General is among the most important offices under the Constitution of any country, Williams said that the duty of the holder is the guardian of the public purse with the responsibility to see that every dollar collected goes into the Consolidated Fund and not one dollar comes out of it without parliamentary approval.
He explained that whether substantively or as an acting appointment, the Auditor General is appointed by the President in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission. However, the current holder does not have a professional accounting qualification necessary for the position of Auditor General and has been acting in the position for more than seven years.
Williams said that the Constitution gives responsibility for the oversight of the Auditor General to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) but not in the exercise of his duties.
“But Presidential Advisor on Governance Ms. Gail Teixeira and Advisor of Empowerment Mr. Odinga Lumumba, two of the PPP/C’s members of the PAC, demonstrating amazing ignorance of the law are accusing the Opposition of ‘interfering in Audit Office internal affairs and stymieing the process of collaboration and trust,” Williams opined.
“This is the new game being played by the PPP/C. If they do not get their way they accuse the other side of non-cooperation. It does not escape us that what the PPP/C might be trying to do is undermine the work of the PAC on the 2010 government accounts. They know that they no longer have majority control of the PAC which allowed for a limited examination of the past reports. They are afraid of the serious defects which a thorough review of the 2010 accounts and the audit report will reveal.”
Adding that if corruption is to be controlled the Audit Office needs qualified, independent professionals backed by a sufficient number of support staff, Williams said it is time for the country to have a qualified and substantive Auditor General, and the AFC is calling on the Public Service Commission to take steps to advise the President on the matter.
The PAC is a nine-person Committee made up of four members of the Government and five from the opposition (APNU-4 and AFC-1). The Committee is chaired by Carl Greenidge, a former Minister of Finance.
In addition to the constitutional provisions, there is an Audit Act which contains the law governing the Audit Office. Section 14 (3) of this Act states that “The Auditor General’s appointment and discipline of all senior officers and senior employees shall be subject to the approval of the Public Accounts Committee”. In other words, the appointment which Mr. Sharma is seeking to make requires the approval of the Public Accounts Committee.