The Auditor General of the Gambia Karamba Touray, on Wednesday 15th April 2015 started presenting to the National Assembly his Audit report in pursuant to section 160(1) (d) of the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia.
However, due to the bulkiness of the report, he could not finish it on the 15th April and therefore used the 16th of April as well.
In issue Number 71, we promised the readers that Foroyaa will serialised the report and we start:-
1.1 It gives me great pleasure to present my Annual Report to the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees of the National Assembly. The Report is a compilation of significant findings that came to the attention of the National Audit Office during the audits. It is designed to bring to the attention of the National Assembly those matters arising out of the audits which are considered to be significant and have not been adequately addressed by the auditee or not addressed at all.
Legal Mandate of the Auditor General
1.2 The National Audit Office is established by the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. The Constitution also describes in greater detail the role of the Auditor General and the National Audit Office.
1.3 As Auditor General, my main responsibility is to conduct financial and regularity audits and economy, efficiency and effectiveness audits otherwise known as value for money or performance audits of public revenue and expenditure.
1.4 it is important to note that whilst financial and regularity audits focus mainly on conformity of administrative action with the law, the budget and other relevant accounting, financial and administrative regulations, economy, efficiency and effectiveness audits go beyond judgements of compliance and accuracy to also evaluate performance and the value for money obtained through government transactions. The past decade has seen a seismic shift towards performance audit in Africa.
1.5 The 1997 Constitution has significantly extended the scope of my powers and in particular requires me to:
Pre-audit all expenditure borne on the Consolidated or other public fund, a task currently undertaken by staff in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (Section 160 (1) (a) and (b); (the automation of government financial transactions has rendered this aspect of my function redundant).
- Carry out economy, efficiency and effectiveness examinations to satisfy myself that public funds are spent in such manner as to reduce waste, eliminate inefficiency and maximise the benefits to be gained from the use of resources (Section 160 (2) (a).
1.6 Section 160, (1), (a) of the Constitution requires me to ensure that before any money is withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund or any other public fund, the withdrawal is in accordance with the provision charging the same on that fund or the relevant Appropriation Act or other Act of the National Assembly and that it complies with the procedures prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
7.1 Section 160, (1), (b) of the Constitution requires me to satisfy myself that money charged on the Consolidated Fund or other public fund, or appropriated by an Act of the National Assembly, and expended, has been applied for the purpose for, which it was so charged or appropriated, and that expenditure conforms to the authority that governs it.
1.8 Section 160, (1), (c) of the Constitution requires me to at least once in every year audit and report on the public accounts of The Gambia, the accounts of all offices and authorities of the Government of The Gambia, the accounts of the courts, the accounts of the National Assembly and the accounts of all Public Enterprises.
1.9 Section 160, (1), (d) of the Constitution requires me to report to the National Assembly on the accounts of The Gambia and to draw attention to any irregularities in the accounts audited and to any other matter which, in my opinion, ought to be brought to the notice of the National Assembly.
Section 160 (1) (e) further requires me to publish for public information my annual report on the accounts once it has been discussed in the National Assembly.
1.10 Section 160, (7) of the Constitution guarantees my independence. In the exercise of my functions, I shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
Respective Responsibilities of the Auditor General and Public Sector Entities
1.11 It is the responsibility of the Chief Executives, Heads of Department, management and staff of public sector entities to establish and maintain internal controls necessary to:
- Enable the preparation of financial information that is free from material misstatement whether due to fraud or error;
- Provide reasonable assurance that adopted policies and prescribed procedures are adhered to and errors and irregularities, including fraud illegal acts are prevented or detected; and
- Provide Government services within a framework of regulations and controls and then to account for their performance.
1.12 The role of the Auditor General is to provide independent assurance to the National Assembly that public sector entities are operating fairly appropriately and that their financial statements are complete and accurate.
1.13 Regular audited financial statements are a key element of good accountability and transparency in Government.
1.14 Each year programmes are prepared specifying the audit work to be carried out during the year. Audits are conducted in a manner that endeavours to display the highest degree of objectivity, accuracy and compliance with professional standards. As part of the audit process my staffs carry out inspection visits to Ministries, Departments and other public bodies all over the country. These visits are as frequent as staff, logistic and financial resources allow.
1.15 As part of these audit inspections, my staffs examine financial transactions of government institutions, control systems, and project accounts. At the conclusion of the audit a draft report of our findings and recommendations is submitted to the Accounting Office of the audited entity requiring him or her to respond to the queries and also provide timelines indicating when the matter would be addressed. These reports are copied as a matter of routine to the line ministry and the Ministry of Finance & Economic Affairs. Where serious matters are raised, reports may also be copied to the Inspector General of Police and the Secretary General, Office of the President.
1.16 The National Audit Office continually faces two major challenges. The first is the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff which I mentioned in my Activity Report to the National Assembly and the other is the availability of vehicles to transport staff to their work places and for treks. Lack of vehicles continues to adversely affect our work plans and makes it very difficult to reach our annual targets.
1.17 The Office has recently procured two vehicles, courtesy of the Ministry of Finance & Economic Affairs, to ease the difficulty in ferrying staff to work in the Greater Banjul Area and also visit Government institutions in the provinces. However, the frequent commandeering of our vehicles, sometimes for months causes a lot of disruption of our work schedules and result to postponement of audits or long delays in completing our work.
1.18 Most of the work that the NAO does is located outside the office thus requiring staff and supervisors to be frequently moving between the office and their work places. The continual availability of transport is therefore very critical to the proper co-ordination of our activities.
1.19 A number of times we rely on UNDP for transportation during the audit of UN funded project where staffs are required to travel to the provinces to visit project sites. Other audits are either suspended when vehicles are commandeered in the middle of assignments or postponed indefinitely when vehicles are not available.
1.20 The uncertainty of the availability of vehicles makes operational planning a nightmare particularly for the audit of institutions outside the Greater Banjul Area.
Scope of this Report
1.21 The report summarises the outstanding issues raised in audit reports issued in 2013 and 2014 excluding my reports on the Government of The Gambia financial statements and reports on Government Business Enterprises which audits were carried out by private audit firms on my behalf which were discussed in the National Assembly. It did not also cover other audits conducted during the period that did not bring forth very significant observations.
1.22 Many of the achievements we have recorded over the past years would not have been possible without the selfless dedication and commitment of all the staff of the National Audit Office. This is especially significant in the light of the wide mandate of the NAO and the parlous human resources available. I would therefore like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication they have shown over the years. I unreservedly thank them for putting the interest of the country first and making many sacrifices towards the attainment of a transparent and accountable public service. The fruits of their labour will be recognised and enjoyed by many in years to come. I would also like to acknowledge the assistance afforded by management and staff of audited entities and the support provided by private audit firms.