…as Parliament receives 2013 AG Report
The timely handing over of the Auditor General’s 2013 Report to the Parliament yesterday was greeted with great appreciation by House Speaker, Raphael Trotman.
The report, which explains in detail how tax payers’ money was expended for that year by the government, served as a celebratory feature of Guyana’s Audit Office, which is celebrating 130 years in existence.
The 2013 report will be kept “under lock and key” by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, until it is laid in the National Assembly and then officially handed over to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where it will be scrutinized.
However, Speaker Trotman in addressing the media stated that while the PAC can be described as a most vibrant committee, it is certainly in need of a fully functioning Budget Office which will provide certain accounting services that can be used by some committee members to improve their performance.
The House Speaker lauded the work of the PAC and then recognized the presence of PAC Member, Manzoor Nadir at the handing over ceremony. Trotman asserted that he has observed the PAC members at the National Assembly after hours, doing their work diligently. However, based on what he has noticed, there is need to strengthen the functions of the PAC with the implementation of a Budget Control Office.
“This is necessary so that Members of Parliament (MPs) are better advised on accounting expertise and how to ask the right questions, and not perhaps ask the same questions over and over. I know that some of you may not want to admit to that, but I think that the MPs need to have the services of a fully functioning Budget Control Office so that when they come to the meetings they know what to look for, what to ask and how to ask, and I hope the parties will take this on board. I will be speaking to them on it and I wish to say that such an office should be buttressed by a legal office or department of this House.”
Chairman of the PAC, Carl Greenidge in an exclusive interview with this publication had stated that a Budget Office would be of great assistance to the Committee. He had said that when it comes to placing the details of controversial accounting matters of ministries and budgetary agencies under a microscope, for example, there isn’t much that the Committee can do. This is simply because its current capacity to examine matters on its own calls for enhancement.
The Parliamentarian was asked whether the Committee is currently strong enough to properly conduct its own investigations where abuses of power of taxpayers’ dollars have occurred.
The PAC Chairman had asserted, “Of course, capacity needs to be enhanced.”
Greenidge had said the Budget Office is an innovation pioneered in the United States and taken up by a number of other countries including, most recently, the United Kingdom. He said that the Budget Office would be of great assistance because appropriate accounting and economic skills could be mustered to prepare analyses and reports that would inform and aid the PAC.
The former finance minister had said that Guyana needs such an innovation, especially because the Committee members are part-time, from varied backgrounds, and sometimes are unaware even of administrative procedures.
In its narrowest interpretation, Greenidge noted that PACs have been charged with ensuring that monies have been spent for the purposes for which they were appropriated. And as the scope of the auditing profession broadens, he said that the need has arisen to look at whether the best use has been made of monies appropriated.
In brief remarks to the media yesterday, Auditor General Sharma said that this report now stands as his tenth. The guardian of the national purse said that his office has met the statutory deadline for the most recent five reports, which includes the one presented to Speaker Trotman yesterday.
Sharma said that the report being presented to the parliament in such a timely manner is in keeping with the Audit Office’s mission statement which is to provide timely reporting of the results to the legislature and ultimately the public.
Of the five reports that met the statutory deadline, three are under the term of the current Speaker’s office. He noted that this achievement would not have been possible were it not for the relentless commitment from his staff. He thanked at length the Ministry of Finance and all the accounting officers for responding to the Audit Office’s queries within the one-month stipulated time frame.
Sharma reminded that most meetings which are held by the PAC are open to the public, and stressed that those hearings provide a great opportunity for citizens to hear if their tax dollars are spent in accordance with the estimates and if all monies have been applied to the purpose(s) intended.
The AG then stated that his office over the last year was able to accomplish several things. These included increasing technical competencies and enhancing human resources.
He noted that the improvements could not have been possible without the help and support of certain entities such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sharma also extended heartfelt appreciation for the assistance rendered to his office by the governments of Canada and India.
The Auditor General said that his office, and even the country at large, benefited from the Canada Executive Service Organization (CESO) under which the Integrated Financial Management and Accounting System (IFMAS) was implemented. An audit of Guyana’s accounting system with the help of CESO has commenced and is expected to be completed by 2015.
The AG stated that his office is aiming to continue improving its services, particularly when it comes to ensuring high quality audits, and is currently seeking to implement audit management software which would improve efficiency and productivity in the auditing process.
Trotman in his statements said that it was a great pleasure and honour to receive the report, and thanked the AG and his hardworking staff for being consistent in upholding the Constitution.
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