By Yankuba Jallow
PKF audit firm Tuesday told the Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) of the National Assembly that the management of GIEPA caused the delay of submitting their reports before the Committee.
This came about when Halifa Sallah, the chairperson of PEC told the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) to submit their reports. The two sides began blaming each another until the Committee intervened and facilitated negotiation between them.
Halifa Sallah said the law is very clear on what public enterprises are required to do at the end of each financial year. He said public enterprises are required to submit their reports within a time frame as provided by law. He said when the committee was set up, they discovered backlogs of financial statement and activity report by public enterprises. He said they have strategized a way of doing away with those backlogs. He said it was anticipated that all the backlogs would be cleared latest March 2019, but this could not happen at the instance of the state-owned enterprises.
Sallah called on GIEPA to present their reports, but this could not materialize because of the auditors and the management, as well as the board of GIEPA, blaming each other for the delay. The Agency was supposed to submit their 2017 and 2018 activity and financial reports, but failed in their responsibility.
Hassan Jallow, the Chief Executive Officer of GIEPA said they have challenges, but the challenges to a greater extent emanated from the auditors
“Our auditors started the audit for 2017 and in its completion, there is normally a management letter attached. That is part of the whole auditing process. Normally in that management letter, management responses are required for some of the observations that are raised. This was brought to our attention and management responded and indicated to the auditors that the responses are to be incorporated in the management letter. When the auditors were notified, the auditors indicated to GIEPA that they have increased the audit fees from D200,000 to D300,000,” he said.
He said: “It is very rear and very much unheard of for auditors to increase their fee in the middle of a process. It is very rare for a professional organization like an audit (firm) to start operation and in between completing the audit to indicate that the fees have been increased.”
He added: “In this case it is unacceptable. We did not arrange for the fees. The fees are arranged by the Auditor General’s Office through a tender that is normally done and the auditors emerged as the winners of the tender and it is where and when the audit fees are fixed. Auditors are paid according to the agreed fees. It is very abnormal and unusual for auditors in the middle of an audit to raise the objection that they will not continue with the audit unless the audit fees are increased.”
He said they have notified the Auditor General to intervene and he promised to call a meeting on the issue between them and the auditors. He added that this is because the auditors were appointed by the National Audit Office.
Yankuba Dibba the Chairman of the Board said: “The problem is not our making, but rather a technical problem. We have made every effort for the compliance of the auditors. We are not able to act on their request without the green light from the National Audit Office because they are the appointing authority. We haven’t budgeted for this money and we did not hire them. They were hired by the National Audit Office.”
Donald Kaye for the PKF Audit Firm said: “Firstly, it is clear that it is 2017 audit and 2018 audit. These are two separate audits and should be treated separately. We issued the 2017 financial statement for consideration by the Board of GIEPA and it is still under their custody. The only thing they needed to do was to look at it and sign. So the 2017 financial statements are with the board. It is not with us. The financial statements are with management –it is only to sign and bring those reports here. The 2017 management report has been with them and they failed to provide their comments for months.”
For the 2018 audit, Mr Kaye said they have sent an email to the management of GIEPA dated 20th November 2018 telling them “please be aware of what the PEC has said in terms of reporting and deadline therefore set. Please tell us when you will be ready for the 2018 audit. They didn’t reply. We have documents to prove all what we are saying.”
He said: “We have started this audit in 2016. A lot have been said about fees but that is just to cloud the whole issue of the urgency and the need to be reporting without being told to do so. What the management doesn’t seem to appreciate is the contract because the letter of engagement is signed by GIEPA and PKF. We are doing it on behalf of the National Audit Office. The National Audit Office did not sign our letter of engagement. Our letter of engagement was signed by GIEPA. Therefore, if we have issues of fees or the demeanour of management financially, we should not go to the National Audit Office – that should be obvious to all. I will not go to the National Audit Office when there is a board of directors. That is procedural and I stand to be corrected, but the rules are there for operating governance.”
He said his audit firm does not operate in that way. He added that they operate by international standards and guidelines which “makes our presence and our brand respectable”.
“Whosoever we associate with, we will try to bring you to those dictates of professionalism, but we cannot do so to our own peril,” he told the lawmakers.
“The Urgency (to submit) was not there. In the 2017 audit, we issued a management letter and we sent emails as follow up asking for their responses. They never provided the responses. We have to close the job. It is a work in progress. How can a job be in progress for so long? That is not market science,” he said.
He added that he has notified GIEPA that they should provide them with what they have requested or face cost after a particular time. He said after this, they decided to increase the audit fees and this, he said, is in accordance with international standard.
“We have been dealing with management since 2016 and management shows no urgency. We have cost to recover which we do not recover yet,” he said.
After Stand Down
The auditors and GIEPA have agreed to work together and they undertook to submit the 2017 reports before end November 2019 and the 2018 reports before the end of December 2019.