New Auditor General Faces Huge Backlog

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The public financial audits for at least four years are outstanding, but newly appointed Auditor General (AG), Mr. Phil Sharman explained that the delayed public reporting is not unusual. He also stated that he is not intimidated by the amount of work needed to make the reports current.

During an interview on Tuesday Mr. Sharman told reporters that the accounts of 2010 and 2011 have been laid before of House of Assembly, together with the Auditor’s report for those years. As such he said that his current task is to complete audits for the years remaining.

“My function and my keen interest now is to bring the accounts up to date for the following years which are 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Those are presently with my office and I now need to determine a strategy for taking those, for completing those audits and bringing them back to the House all audited and fair and square,” he said.

The Backlog

When asked what caused the pile up of reports, the Auditor General explained that there are two stages in the audit of public accounts. Stage one is the preparation of the accounts of those years. This first stage, the AG pointed out is a function of the Ministry of Finance, and more specifically the Accountant General. He noted that the second stage occurs when the accounts are prepared and transmitted to his office where the process begins.

“We are not able to commence any work until we have the accounts in front of us and clearly they are now. Perhaps in time I will understand better why there has been a delay in the production of the accounts. Going forward once the backlog is cleared I will expect those accounts to come forward on a regular basis, and we will also audit them on a regular basis going forward,” he further stated.

The Auditor General announced that he is not fazed by the abundance of work to be completed. However, he said that the public needs to be realistic about the work involved to clear the current backlog.  “This isn’t the first time that I have faced a backlog in public reporting. It’s not unusual. It’s a situation that’s very difficult to recover from once it’s there, but I am motivated with my team to turn that position around. I think everyone is supportive of the progress that’s going to be made and I am very pleased to be charged with that task. Certainly, it’s going to take a while, it’s not going to be an overnight thing,” he noted.

Assisting the Public Accounts Committee

Mr. Sharman noted that one of the responsibilities of the Auditor General is to offer assistance to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC): “That is precisely the function of the Auditor — not only the audit of the public accounts but also the supporting of the Public Accounts Committee and their work and the general promotion of good governance and accountability right across the islands. That is the job that I am hired to do and that is the job that I will do,” the AG said.

As he works to clear another audit, Mr. Sharman suggested that the PAC can commence its dissecting of the 2010, and 2011 audits that were previously laid in the House of Assembly. “Presently, as I mentioned, we have the Auditor’s report for 2010 and 2011. The initial function of the PAC now that those have been laid before the House is to call those in, hear the evidence and prepare their report on those two units. That in itself could take some time. In the background, we are producing the accounts for the subsequent period.”

“The Public Accounts Committee is mandated automatically to look at the work of the Auditor, that is their function. Those reports have been laid and it is quite proper now for those to be called in by the PAC and to be examined. Absolutely standard practice,” the Auditor General added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sharman promises that he and his team will be working assiduously to complete another annual audit: “I will be working closely with the Financial Secretary to work out a recovery plan for those backlogged years so that we can bring those forward to the House in due course. That will not be an overnight process. To complete an audit for one year is a sizeable task. To complete it for four years and then the current year is going to be enormous but we are up for that challenge. I think with a proper strategy, the right support we are about to bring those reports to the House in due course.”

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