An Internal Audit Department (IAD) is being established by Government to ensure that some of the issues highlighted in the 2021 Auditor General Report will never recur.
The new department is expected to be in place within the next fiscal year 2023 to 2024.
The IAD is expected to increase “public confidence” in the management of the country’s financial affairs, according to Government’s response to the highly-publicised report.
Amid public criticism, Prime Minister Mia Mottley and several of her ministers have frequently maintained that there was no evidence of corruption in the most recent report.
They conceded that the issues highlighted were as a result of accounting deficiencies.
“Provision was made, with the passing of the Public Finance Management Act, 2019, for the establishment of an Internal Audit Department that would enhance transparency, accountability and good governance with respect to the utilisation of the people of Barbados’ resources. Although this has not been done to date, as much of the national focus has been on the COVID-19 pandemic and other external shocks, it is our intention that this be done within the next fiscal year, 2023-2024.
“The Internal Audit Department will also serve to ensure that Government’s financial systems are sound and that its reporting is up-to-date and timely with a view to enhancing the public confidence in the management of their financial affairs. The ministry continues to work with private sector audit firms to bring the financial statements up-to-date for a number of state-owned enterprises to achieve consolidated reporting for the public sector,” Government stated in the response from Director of Finance and Economic Affairs Ian Carrington.
However, Government raised some concerns with the Auditor General’s Office, saying it had not properly communicated with some of its departments and agencies.
It maintained that had that been done, several of the issues highlighted in the report would have been addressed.
“In the interest of transparency, accountability and good governance, the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment has compiled and updated responses to all of the issues raised in the report. In so doing, it was determined, based on the Auditor General’s queries and the responses of ministries and departments, that many of the issues highlighted in the report could have been settled in a timelier and less conspicuous manner if the channels for communication and interaction between the Audit Office and officers in the respective ministries and departments had been more vigorously used,” the response stated.
“At the same time though, the Government of Barbados, through the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment, willingly acknowledges the critical nature of the role played by the Auditor General in ensuring that Barbadians benefit from the best systems of governance possible and that these systems are constantly subjected to robust scrutiny.
“The ministry also acknowledges, having undertaken a most thorough review of the queries raised by the Auditor General in his latest report, that many of our ministries and departments must be assisted in ensuring greater observance of the highest accounting standards. This is not because of any specific or overwhelming suspicions of dishonesty on the part of public officers, but in the interest of eliminating reporting errors and omissions, too many of which were highlighted in the report and confirmed in our review.
“Please be advised, and the Auditor General can confirm, that in the last four years, the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment has met with him to review his report. Whilst we accept that the Audit Office is independent and reports directly to Parliament, it was requested at the time, that if ministries and departments were not responding to queries, that this be communicated to the Director of Finance and Economic Affairs such that his office can intervene and get the necessary responses ahead of the publication of the report. To date, no such requests have been received,” it also added.