The Government’s continued placement of the office of the Auditor-General under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) is in breach of internationally acceptable standards on auditing, which require that the auditor remain independent from the auditee, The Sunday Standard has established.
This has also been confirmed by the Auditor General Pelonomi Namogang.
The mandate of the Auditor general is currently contained in the finance and Audit Act which is under the control of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, whilst at the same time the OAG is administratively accountable to the Ministry of State President.
Responding to questions form the Sunday Standard, Namogang said “the MFDP acts as an accountant for government accounts, which accounts are audited by the OAG.” He further added, “This is despite the fact that international standards on auditing call for the independence of the auditor from the auditee, in this case, the MFDP.”
He said that although his staff is doing its best, as evidenced by the frank reports, they have always served the public in spite of the fact that challenges encountered by his office have increasingly brought to question the sufficiency of the current act in providing for specific provisions relating to the international Standards auditing in use.
Furthermore, he said, “There is a big gap, international standards are used but there is no legal backing.”
Namogang said that the present arrangement calls to question the issues of governance and transparency, and that this stifles the fullest realization of the objectives of his office. He, however, expressed optimism that the ongoing process to come up with a separate act from the Finance and Audit act should go a long way towards enabling the development of the law affecting the functions of the OAG so as to facilitate effective operation of the office and to ensure relevance of the law in generating solutions to the current challenges.
Some of the challenges the AG acknowledged are the lack of implementation of projects, under-utilization of funds and, in others, there have been noted cases of over expenditure. He said that in all instances, they have had to make suggestions and recommendations as to how best things could be done including the proper placing of his department, but the absence of a separate legal framework such as the envisaged new public Audit Act to regulate his office is not helping things.
On a positive note, Namogang stated that his department is making the most of their connection to international and regional audit institutions. In the regional context, under the organization of supreme Audit institutions under the English speaking Region (AFROSAI-E) umbrella, these OAGs, along with other supreme Audit institutions (SAIs) are mandated to strive to achieve what is called a ‘level 3 institutional framework.’