JUST AN OPINION
The ongoing debate about the qualifications for the position of Auditor General can but only aid in undermining public confidence in that more important office, at a time when there is a great movement forward towards ensuring increased public accountability.
The opposition parties have committed themselves towards securing increased transparency and accountability. It is therefore unfortunate that this very awkward debate about whether the Auditor General is qualified or not is taking place.
Nonetheless, those who are making the argument that the present Auditor General does not qualify for confirmation are entitled to their opinion and should be free to express it. But it would be much better if this is done from an informed position and in a manner that would not hold the Audit Office up to ridicule.
There is no appointed Auditor General. The head of the Office of the Auditor General has been appointed to act as the Auditor General. He has been doing so for many years now. He has consistently provided reports on the public accounts of Guyana. These reports, laid before the parliament, have been hailed as providing the ammunition for the opposition parties, the media, and other watchdog groupings to be critical of certain aspects of the government’s work.
Judging from the quality of those reports, no adverse suggestions can be made about the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the work of the Audit Office. The present acting head has done a very good job and he should not be facing these criticisms that are now emerging.
It was because of the committed work of the Audit Office that certain revelations were made known about the waiver of Tender Board procedures for certain contracts. It was the reports of the Auditor General which exposed many areas in which improvements were needed. As such, instead of the
Office of the Auditor General being assailed, it should be commended. The quality of the reports is second to none that were ever produced in Guyana, and it must be acknowledged that the financial work of government has multiplied.
The latest attack seems misplaced. It concerns the issue of how qualified the present acting Auditor General is to be substantively appointed.
Under the Constitution of Guyana it is for the President to be guided by the Public Service Commission to appoint an Auditor General or someone to act in that capacity. The issue of qualifications for the job is therefore within the remit of the Public Service Commission, and it is for that Commission to satisfy itself about the competency of anyone that they will recommend for appointment as Auditor General or to act in that capacity.
The constitution itself authorizes the Auditor General as the auditor of the public accounts of Guyana. The constitution is the supreme law of the land and no other law can be used to override what the constitution prescribes.
There is what is known as the Companies Act, and that Act makes qualifications for individuals to be appointed as auditors for companies.
The said Companies Act prescribes that the person must be a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana and hold a practicing certificate.
The Companies Act is concerned solely with companies, and the relevant section being bandied about relates to the qualifications for individuals to be appointed as auditors for companies. The intent of that legislation is to regulate the appointment of auditors specific to companies. It insists on some level of qualifications.
On the other hand, the office of the Auditor General is a public office, and therefore the provisions of the Companies Act that relate to the appointment of individuals as auditors for companies cannot be applied to the Auditor General.
Those who are advancing this particular provision of the Companies Act as the basis for disqualifying the present acting Auditor General need to be also reminded that even though the Auditor General is required to audit the books of government corporations, this is not his exclusive or even substantive function, and thus the provisions of the Companies Act cannot be used as the basis of determining the qualifications for the holding of a post of Auditor General when the constitution does not delegate such a role to any other law.
It is therefore respectfully argued that the decision as to whether the acting Auditor General is qualified to be substantively appointed remains in the remit of the Public Service Commission.
The acting Auditor General has been doing the work for many years now and his reports have not attracted any serious criticisms.
It is difficult for anyone to argue that given this record that the Public Service Commission would simply bypass the present acting Auditor General simply because there are persons out there who are confusing the qualifications for the appointment of individuals as auditors of companies with the more substantive position of the Auditor General.