Without An Independent Auditor General… Public Accountability Will Be Very Weak

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Auditor General, Lara Taylor-Pearce

By Amin Kef Sesay

Sierra Leone’s Auditor General has lately been under the public spotlight over her office’s findings and recommendations for remedial actions made in the 2019 Audit Report.

For the majority that stand firmly with His Excellency President Bio’s affirmation to the nation when he came to power in April 2018 that his regime will go all out to fight against corruption, mismanagement, financial indiscipline and poverty, the Auditor General is warmly applauded as being a brave gallant frontline battle field commander unafraid to enter into any MDA and to fearlessly expose those governance failures the President promised to remedy.

However, most unfortunately, there are corrupt, unpatriotic self-seeking officials in the Government who believe that the Auditor General’s exposure of their financial misdeeds, which sum up to exacerbate poverty in the country, is excuse enough to cry from their rooftops for her resignation or sacking. It is left with the reasoning and conscience of the entire nation as judge and jury to determine whether the cries for the resignation or sacking of the Auditor General for doing her work disinterestedly, professionally and patriotically are justified.

Now doubt, without a fearless, independent Auditor General, with an impeccable integrity to keep an eagle’s eyes watch on how the trillions of Leones that are approved by Parliament for spending are utilized judiciously, no amount of change of Government will bring the people of this country the development, prosperity and welfare we dream of as a nation.

As the principal financial gatekeeper, the primary functions of the Auditor General are:-To inspect and audit, and to report at least once in every fiscal year (as provided by an Act of the Parliament) to the Parliament on the public accounts, the control of and on transactions with or concerning the public moneys and property of Sierra Leone as are prescribed by or under a Constitutional Law

THE MANDATE OF THE AUDITOR-GENERAL

The Auditor-General checks the spending of public funds and resources by looking at whether these were used for the intended purposes with regard to economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The Auditor-General checks all Government spending every year. This checking process is called audit.

By carrying out annual audits, the Auditor-General assists Parliament to hold to account and call to account all persons entrusted with management of public funds and resources.

Auditor-General’s audits ensure Parliament’s ultimate authority, supervision and control over all aspects of public finance.

The Auditor-General has reporting functions to Parliament.

The Office’s annual audit reports highlight key financial control issues of importance to Parliament and the Government.

It includes recommendations to improve the management of organisations and increase their operational effectiveness.

Critically, implementation of recommendations is the role of the Government.

The recommendations of the Auditor-General are supposed to: Lead to substantial savings in public funds and efficiencies and improvements within the public sector, ensure that significant and relevant financial management issues are addressed, lead to improved management of public sector resources

WHAT DOES THE AUDITOR-GENERAL DO?

Through Financial Statement Audits, Performance Audits and Special Audits the Auditor General helps to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations governing financial administration and management.

AUDITOR GENERAL’S OPINION

  1. Clean opinion – That everything was done the way it should be. No reservations concerning financial statements. There is no noteworthy violations or misstatements in the financial information. Generally accepted accounting principles were followed.
  2. QUALIFIED OPINION
  • Did not manage an account or finances to achieve best results
  • There were issues in the financial information, auditor took exceptions to
  • Because of these issues the auditor is unable to express a clean opinion.
  1. ADVERSE OPINION
  • Problematic. Auditor found significant material misstatements associated with financial information. Financial statement do not fairly present financial position, results of operations, changes in financial positions. Radically negative audit report.
  1. DISCLAIMER OPINION
  • Most awful. No reliable evidence to support financial statements.
  • Unable to form an opinion on the financial statements.

WHERE THERE IS IRREGULAR EXPENDITURE

The Auditor General recommends to -Keep proper financial records daily, hire the right people for the job with the right skills, fill key positions with competent people, remove people who do not perform, enforce accounting rules, ensure a robust and functioning Committee of Public Accounts, restore public trust and confidence, control daily performance, ensure that internal controls are in place and minimize the risk of systems circumvention.

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