Training, capacity building needed for regional auditors – IIA Chairman
2016 Auditor General ReportWith several accounting officers admitting before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) when it recently met to various financial infractions, concerns are being raised that this points to a systemic lack of standards.In an interview with Guyana Times, financial consultant John Seeram noted that capacity building among the various regional administrations would go a far way to minimising the flagrant abuses identified in the Auditor General’s 2016 report.Seeram, who is also the Chairman of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Guyana chapter, acknowledged that the administrations of the 10 Regions have internal auditors. At the same time, he questioned their efficiency.Institute of Internal Auditors Chairman John Seeram“They need more training. And in so doing, they must be able to know that they must work along with management in order to meet the financial goals of the Region. And that is where the Institute of Internal Auditors come in, because we normally mount at least three to four seminars a year on pertinent topics relating to the practice of accounting and auditing in the public service.“And I believe that once they attend those seminars, that could be a way of professional development for our internal auditors. As it stands right now, I would venture to say that there is need for more training for the internal auditors so as to minimise the comments made by the Auditor General in his report,” Seeram stated.Fiscal abuseRecently, a showdown had ensued at the PAC between Committee Chairman Irfaan Ali and Regional Executive Officer (REO) Rupert Hopkinson over the Region Two administration’s financial indiscretions.Prior to the meeting, Hopkinson had made an official response to the 2016 Audit Report’s findings. Ali had pointed to a number of disturbing trends from the explanations. He cited a section of the foreword of Hopkinson’s response, where he noted the administration was not disputing it used current allocations to fund capital projects.Under fire from Ali, the REO had claimed that these were all projects of an emergency nature. At this point, Ali had slammed Hopkinson for being aware of breaches to the law yet going ahead with the projects out of the belief that they were in the best interest of the Region.The projects included the construction of a bus shed at Dartmouth, construction of the Anna Regina Health Centre, construction of a fence at Unity Park Phase One, construction of a fence at Unity Park Phase Two, and construction of a sitting area at Cotton Field and landing at Liberty, Pomeroon.Hopkinson’s contention is that the works were of an emergency nature, requested from the heads of programmes within the regional administration. In his official response, he has also stressed that the projects would have benefited residents.Notably, Hopkinson, in his explanation, had stated: “We seek pardon for any contravention of policy, on the grounds that the Region saved $500 million from 2016 to date… on this score, the administration of Pomeroon-Supenaam Region is of the opinion that the Region should be commended for its judicious spending of Government budgetary allocations…in the face of a culture of dishonesty.”City Hall was also placed in the limelight earlier this year after complaints from Auditor General Deodat Sharma over his inability to access certain documents during a previous audit. Following threats to seek criminal charges, the Council provided these documents at a subsequent PAC meeting.Under a barrage of questions, City Treasurer Ron McAlmont had resolutely refused to provide an explanation for the delay in the handing over of information auditors have been after since the initial audit in 2017.The Audit Office of Guyana had found that as at December 31, 2016, $396.5 million was expended. From the start, City Hall’s financial status, how it spent almost $175 million and its failure to submit documentation dating from 2005 posed a challenge to the PAC.Then, the PAC had clashed with the Guyana Water Inc (GWI) last month over the fact that a programme that was approved by the National Assembly was revised despite works already commencing.GWI Executive Director for Project Implementation, Ramchand Jailal had faced the brunt of questioning from the PAC. He related that during 2016, the original programme was revised.While GWI and the Communities Ministry had held out that no wrongdoing was done when it revised the terms of the Hinterland Water Supply programme, the Auditor General had informed them of their liability in the matter.“Mr Chair, that’s a breach of the Fiscal Act. The FMA [Fiscal Management and Accountability] Act says unspent balances must be refunded to the Consolidated Fund. But you only got the approval on 29 of December. So you are covering yourself afterwards. So that’s a breach,” Sharma had explained.PAC Chairman Ali has already made calls for harsher penalties for those who commit financial crimes, besides what the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act already provides for.