Democratic Labour Party (DLP) leader Dr Ronnie Yearwood is calling for an independent trust fund to be set up to finance the work of the Office of the Auditor General to prevent “undermining” of its ability to carry out its work.
He made the suggestion with Auditor General Leigh Trotman noting in his latest report for the period ending March 31, 2022, that his office was only able to conduct “a fraction of the audits” for which it had budgeted.
“A number of the financial audits were not completed for two reasons, namely, the financial information, for a large number of the audits, was not made available to the auditors; and, even if the information was made available, the personnel would not have been there to complete them,” Trotman wrote in the report which was laid in Parliament last week.
“To the extent that the Government is relying on the service of the Audit Office to point out areas of deficiencies and give the assurance that the financial transactions are in good order, there is, there is considerable risk that the work of the office will not achieve this given its current limitations.”
Yearwood demanded that the situation be corrected.
“The Auditor General is still short of the resources required to do the job that his office is mandated by law to do. This is five years on and the same issue year after year. Do better, government, and give the office the resources it needs!” he said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“What is still deeply concerning is that one of the things the Government can do is give the Auditor General the resources to do the job; they do not. It looks purposeful and it makes the Auditor General’s job more difficult, but the Auditor General has persevered and should be commended for the herculean effort to protect the people’s money.”
The DLP leader also touched on other concerns highlighted by Trotman in his report, including the Government’s failure to publish a consolidated statement, the lack of audited financial statements of several state entities, and the lack of clear notes on the variable interest of loans.
“Overall, the Auditor General report still has too many reports of government mismanagement or improper procedure or not meeting their own finance governance rules. Yet not a word from the Government on this current situation,” the attorney said.
Yearwood also again supported the Auditor General’s recommendation that an independent senator chair the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.
Trotman had noted that during the year under review, there were no PAC meetings since the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly is appointed chairman of that committee and there is currently no opposition.
He expressed concern about that situation, given that the committee is tasked with examining the reports of the Auditor General, including the results of performance audits.
“This situation could be remedied by an amendment to the PAC Act, which would allow for an independent senator to chair the meetings in the absence of an opposition leader,” Trotman said in his report.
Chastising the Mia Mottley-led administration for its lack of action in this matter, Yearwood said: “The Government still has not listened to the suggestion by the Auditor General and the leader of the Democratic Labour Party that given there is no Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, that an independent senator chair the Public Accounts Committee so its work in examining the Auditor General reports and holding the Government accountable be carried out.”
“Even if the PAC needs to be improved, it is better than nothing at all. The Government has refused to make the relevant amendments to the PAC Act,” he added.