The Public Accounts Committee is merely responsible for approving of the appointments made by the Auditor General within the Office of the Auditor General.
The Public Accounts Committee can either approve of refuse to approve the appointments made by the Auditor General. But once approved the Public Accounts Committee cannot undo what it did.
The Public Accounts Committee had approved of certain appointments made within the Audit Office. One such appointment has been said to involve a conflict of interest. The Public Accounts Committee, however, has no powers to revisit that appointment because what has been done cannot be undone.
The issue of conflicts of interest within the Office of the Auditor General is a matter for the Auditor General and him alone to address. The Auditor General occupies an office that is an independent constitutional appointment. Neither he nor his office is subject to the direction or control of anyone or any authority. This is according to the Constitution of Guyana, Article 224.
The role given to the Public Accounts Committee to exercise general supervision over the functioning of the Audit Office is not a constitutional mandate. The power of the Public Accounts Committee to approve appointments is provided for under the Audit Act. It does not carry with it an obligation to decide who is appointed or who works where and does what within the Audit Office. If it did, it would be in contravention of the constitutional guarantees of independence of the office of the Auditor General as provided for in Article 224 of the Constitution of Guyana.
It is the Audit Act that allows the Public Accounts Committee to approve appointments made by the Auditor General. But the context of this proviso must be appreciated. The Audit Office has to have a budget and has to have staffing and rules under which it operates. The Auditor General has to determine his staffing needs and the National Assembly has to make provision for such needs without in any way impairing the independence of the public office of the Auditor General.
Thus, when it comes to staffing, the auditor general appoints and the Public Accounts Committee approves those appointments.
Once someone is appointed and that appointment is met with the approval of the Public Accounts Committee there is no power by the Public Accounts Committee to undo that appointment.
Thus, if an issue of a conflict of interest involving a staff member of the Office of the Auditor General arises it is for the Auditor General and the Auditor General alone to deal with this issue. It is for the Auditor General to decide whether any of his officers is in a position whereby their objectivity in auditing accounts of the various branches and departments of government can be called into question.
It is not for the Public Accounts Committee or any of its members to be attempting to deal with this issue.
They may raise it as a concern but it is ultimately a matter for the Auditor General to address and once he is satisfied that there is no threat to the objectivity of the auditing process, then the matter ends there.
The decision of any person or committee to write to professional accounting bodies concerning conflicts of interest of officers of the Office of the Auditor General cannot be the basis for rescinding any appointment made and approved. It therefore seems to be a fishing excursion for anyone to be writing to professional accounting bodies for their opinions on whether a conflict of interest exists.
Professional accounting bodies are often called on to make pronouncements about conflicts of interest involving their members. But in the case of the Audit Office, it is the Auditor General who has exclusive responsibility for the auditing of public accounts and therefore regardless of what conflicts of interest his any of his officers may appear to be in; it is the Auditor General and him alone who is responsible for these accounts.
Consequently, it is only him and him alone who can face any sanction from a professional accounting body to which he belongs.
Professional accounting bodies are not likely to address any charges or allegations about conflicts of interest involving officers of the Audit Office.
This will not be done as long as the ultimate responsibility for the preparation of the audit reports remains constitutionally and by law that of the Auditor General.
Professional accounting bodies cannot sanction any of the officers within the Audit Office for possible or actual conflict of interest because the audit reports are made not in the names of those officers but under the hand of the Auditor General.
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