Aug 8, 2008, 8:50 AM
Reports of the Auditor General, on the financial statements of the Gambia government, for the years 2009 and 2010, make grim reading.
They were recently presented to the joint session of the PAC/PEC of the National Assembly in Banjul.
The law requires that the auditor general presents such auditing reports to the minister of Finance. The Finance and Audit Act also requires the minister to lay the report before the National Assembly.
The permanent secretary at Finance presented the reports on behalf of the minister, including the “management letter” sent by the auditor general to the permanent secretary Finance.
We understand that the permanent secretary is responsible for the preparation of the financial statements. He/she should ensure that there are adequate internal control arrangements in place to safeguard public funds, as well as putting in place measures to prevent and detect fraud.
As highlighted in news reports on this affair, the auditor general reported that the audit exercise revealed “weakness in controls which need urgent attention”, and in his letter expressed the hope that “all necessary steps would be taken to address all the issues raised”.
We are aware that the PAC/PEC members commented on the findings, with several citing the auditor general’s queries, and asking the Finance ministry to put things right.
Among others, some of the queries are, “non-compliance with laws and regulations, non-presented payment vouchers, breach of GPPA regulations, payment vouchers lacking adequate supporting documents, payment vouchers with no supporting documentation, and unretired imprests”.
It was evident, from the reports and comments heard, that some of the queries have been made again and again; and we hope that the Finance ministry and Treasury Directorate will work hard, to ensure this is not the case come future audit reports.
The people’s representatives have a duty to ask for, and ensure there is great improvement in the situation.
In any case, one would also like to point out that, to their credit, that is, the public finance authorities, there has been a big improvement in the matter of the of auditing government finances.
Indeed, there was a time when the complaint was about the huge backlog, going back several years, of unaudited government financial statements.
Now, with the audit reports for 2009 and 2010 available, it is obvious that the remaining audits cover just a few years.
The importance of this aspect of our governance system cannot be overemphasized.
The audit reports are available to and read by among others, our development partners, and we must beware of the impression given, and the image the reports create about how we manage public finances in this country.
"If you want to rear financial blessings, you have to sow financially"