Auditor General Calls For Collaborative Approach with Journalists for Enhanced Accountability

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By Foday Moriba Conteh

In a media engagement on issues relating to the Auditor General’s Report 2022 held on Thursday, 1stFebruary 2024 organized by Audit Service Sierra Leone, Abdul Aziz, the Acting Auditor General of Audit Service Sierra Leone emphasized the pivotal role of auditors in ensuring a positive impact on the nation, underscoring the importance of stakeholders’ engagement and communication during the discussion on the recently published 2022 Annual Report.

Addressing journalists at their office, on the 12th Floor, Freetown City Council Building on Wallace Johnson Street in Freetown, Aziz stated: “The work that we do at the Audit Service is not for the Audit Service; it’s for the public, it’s for our people.” He highlighted the need for auditors and journalists to work as partners in development, recognizing the powerful role of the media in disseminating audit reports to the public.

Aziz explained the three main types of audits performed by the Audit Service, namely financial statement audit, compliance audit, and performance or value for money audit. He stressed the significance of going beyond financial statements and evaluating the impact of Government spending on service delivery.

“The work that we do should make a difference in the lives of our people. If we are unable to do that, then we should not even exist as an institution,” declared Aziz, emphasizing the importance of changing the approach to ensure relevance and effectiveness.

Aziz urged auditors to address issues that go beyond cash losses, focusing on service delivery challenges in sectors such as health, education, and agriculture. He acknowledged the media as the “court of public opinion” and encouraged journalists to play a crucial role in holding public officers accountable.

During the briefing, Aziz mentioned ongoing efforts, supported by the World Bank to improve stakeholders’ communication and engagement. He emphasized that collaboration with journalists is essential to achieving the desired impact on citizens’ lives.

Aziz concluded by expressing the Audit Service’s commitment to ongoing communication with the media, emphasizing the need for regular meetings and open dialogue to enhance accountability and transparency in Sierra Leone.

In a comprehensive briefing on the report, Philip Goba, the Training Manager of Audit Service Sierra Leone, provided insights into the meticulous audit process and the criteria employed for selecting clients. Giving a detailed account, Goba emphasized the importance of transparency and outlined the steps followed by auditors throughout the audit engagement.

Goba commenced the briefing by shedding light on the structure of the audit report, guiding attendees on the essential components. He stressed the significance of understanding what was examined, why it was examined, and the findings, considering it as a key to grasp the essence of each chapter.

Furthermore, Goba addressed the common queries raised about client selection, emphasizing the criteria used to determine the entities subjected to audit. With over 400 clients, the audit service prioritizes based on budget allocation, public interest, revenue generated by the entity, donor interests, and adherence to financial statement preparations.

He clarified that the audit service also considers the Government’s agenda, which plays a crucial role in selecting clients. For instance, the focus might shift from education to agriculture based on the Government’s priorities.

Delving into the audit process, Goba explained the operational meeting organized within different divisions to discuss the areas of focus. He highlighted that auditors carefully examine and critique each division’s choices during this meeting, ensuring a robust and comprehensive audit plan.

To maintain transparency, Goba detailed the communication process with clients, starting with an engagement letter outlining responsibilities and expectations. The auditors conduct an initial meeting, explaining their intentions, duration, and document requirements.

Throughout the audit, queries are issued, and verbal communication ensures that issues are promptly addressed. An exit meeting is then organized, providing clients with an overview of the findings before the report is finalized.

Addressing the concern of surprises, Goba emphasized that clients are well-informed at every stage, leading to an exit meeting where all issues are thoroughly discussed.

The briefing concluded with Goba outlining the types of evidence used in the audit, including documentary, pictorial, analytical, and testimonial evidence. He assured that all queries and observations in the report are substantiated by evidence on file, reiterating the transparency and openness of the audit process.

The Assistant Auditor General, Audit Service Sierra Leone, Morie Lansana also spoke on key issues in the report followed by the Principal Auditor, Audit Service Sierra Leone, Mohamed Mustapha who spoke on the submission of the report to Parliament.

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