Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Good, the bad and the ugly ÔÇô Auditor General’s report

The Office of the Auditor General last month, as usual without fail released its annual report of the accounts of the government. The latest report entails audits of the accounts of the government for the period that ended March 2016. As usual the scope of the audit mandate included accounts of all the ministries and extra ministerial departments of government, all local authorities and land boards and selected parastatal organizations.

It is for this reason that we wish to applaud the Auditor General for the sterling job performed all these years to ensure that all reasonable precautions have been taken to safe guard the collection and custody of public moneys. This will go in a long way in ensuring that the laws and instructions and directions relating thereto have been observed duly observed. The report also is useful in the sense that it highlights stubborn government arms who continue to voluntarily waste tax payer’s money.

But whilst we applaud the office of the Auditor General, it is very hard for us to do the same about her counterpart, the ombudsman. We wish could say something positive about this respectful office but nothing come to head on the tip of fingers. This is solely because the office is too quiet for anyone’s liking. By the way, the Ombudsman, just like the Auditor’s general produces a report for tabling in parliament every year. The huge difference between the two reports though is that the ombudsman’s report seems to be on a mission to only fulfill a mandatory and statutory requirement.

The contents of the 2016 Auditor General report, just like those of the other years has been making news headlines for the past weeks but we can bet, the Ombudsman report will come and no “juicy” will ever come out of it.  As far as we are concerned, for all the reports that have been presented before the National Assembly over the past few years, none of the issues raised by the ombudsman have been debated thoroughly. The public is also too quite when it comes to the honorable office. What could be the cause of these trends?

Put broadly, the Ombudsman’s job is to protect the public against abuse of office by public officers. This surely should entail abuse of public finances.

It is also quite clear that although the office of the Ombudsman is mandated to promote adherence to best administrative practices through public sector compliance, with rules and procedures, it only serves as a ventilator in a grievance ridden public service. At the same time, it seems to us that the office is forever careful not to annoy the powers that be, who, by the way, are not only the appointing authority but also paymaster. (Who would bite a hand that feeds them anyway?)

The #Bottom-line is that without any power to enforce or ensure compliance with its recommendations or sufficient resources to act beyond its present limitations, the office of the Ombudsman will remain a toothless bulldog.

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