Alhagie Mbow, the National Assembly Member for Upper Saloum and vice chairman of FPAC, has opined that empowering and supporting Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) should be everyone's business.
Honourable Mbow was speaking at the African Organisation of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E) at the SDKJ conference centre on Monday.
He talked about the importance of such a high-profile forum, saying it accords stakeholders an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas and experiences centred around strengthening the Supreme Audit Institutions’ determination to improve in the areas of independence, accountability and transparency.
The vice chairman of the FPAC committee of the National Assembly, said the focus of the forum was not only to present and reward the best performance audit report to prize winners but equally to brainstorm on the strategies and mechanisms that would ensure and strengthen the accountability of public funds in our public institutions.
According to him, the National Audit Office (NAO) of The Gambia has been supporting and continues to support the National Assembly in conducting its oversight functions over public institutions. The NAO is staffed with professionals and patriots who leave no stone unturned in carrying out their work.
He said for the past five years, NAO has been so initiative? in the way they conduct their audits. "The reports submitted to the National Assembly are more user friendly now compared to before."
He said the NAO has performed an audit on the funds spent during the government's response to the Covid-19, even before the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly requested them to do so. "Furthermore, the auditor general and team spent days with the Hon. Members; taking them through the said report. This has not only empowered Hon. Members in understanding the report but also helped them to ask the right questions to the government officials entrusted with the implementation of the Covid Response.
The Upper Saloum lawmaker also acknowledged that the National Audit Office has over the years conducted performance audits on various government institutions, such as Gambia Ports Authority on its Cargo Handling and the report was presented to the Public Enterprises Committee for scrutiny. "Equally, it has conducted similar audits on the supply of farm inputs by the Ministry of Agriculture and distribution of drugs by the central medical store under the Ministry of Health."
"These audits were all geared to making sure that public funds are judiciously utilised by public officers for the public good. These exercises put the government and its institutions in the spotlight thereby ensuring efficient and effective public finance management and ensuring proper public service delivery," he said.
He added that for the past two decades, FPAC has been thoroughly scrutinising and extensively deliberating on Auditor General’s audit reports. "The Committee ensures that all relevant stakeholders are engaged during the scrutiny process, with a view to addressing the anomalies reported in the reports. Equally, the auditor general serves and continues to serve as the Principal Aide to the Finance and Public Accounts Committee in all its deliberations."
"This goes to demonstrate the trust and confidence that the National Assembly has for the auditor general and the National Audit Office in general."
“However, the NAO in ensuring accountability and probity, with all the financial and budgetary constraints posed by Covid, the National Assembly has been approving the NAO budget as proposed with insignificant cuts compared to other budget entities. We believe that not empowering the NAO to do their work will be more deadly than Covid or any other austerity measures.”