We have the right to question people if they step out of their mandate - AG

We have the right to question people if they step out of their mandate - AG

By Shanil Singh
Tuesday 10/05/2022
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they have the right to question people if they step out of their mandate.

Sayed-Khaiyum says it is not about attacking but it is a question of maintaining the integrity.

He says they have the ability to question and just because the Office of the Auditor General is an independent office, it does not mean they cannot be questioned.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they all agree that the standard of the auditing process in Fiji must improve significantly and the independence of the Auditor General is guaranteed in the Constitution.

He adds the former Auditor General refused to do exit meetings and hardly attended any entry interviews and no good auditor does this.

Sayed-Khaiyum says in the 5 years the former Auditor General was in office, he never communicated a strategy or indicated his intend to address the significant backlog of audits that exists.

The Minister for Economy also says if you pick up the budget estimates, there are one line items which means institutions are not told how to spend their money.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says the Office of the Auditor General has never come to them and said that they need $1 million more because they want to outsource.

He says they would have done it if the Office of the Auditor General had asked.

Auditor-General must only report to Parliament and no one else – Prof. Prasad

By: Vijay Narayan

Tuesday 10/05/2022

Biman

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says we all know that the Office of the Auditor-General has been under severely intense scrutiny by this Government for a while and its role, performance and independence has been questioned even on the floor of parliament by a select few, led by none other than the the Attorney-General.

While speaking on the motion that Parliament debates the Review of the Auditor General’s 2020 Annual Report, Professor Prasad says we have even heard of claims that the former Auditor-General was drinking grog with some Opposition Members when he was the Auditor-General.

He says the work and recommendations of this Committee ceases to have any meaning if the Auditor-General, who must only report to Parliament and no one else, is maligned inside the same temple of democracy that protects the Office of the Auditor-General as well as preserves its neutrality and independence.

Professor Prasad also says the Auditor-General reports to Parliament through the Speaker and no one else.

He says this Government was shooting the messenger at all times instead of shooting the message.

Professor Prasad says it is clear as daylight that the statement from the Office of the Auditor General on 30th December last year was made to defend the office from being denigrated by government.

He quoted the statement, that can be found on the OAG website, and says: - “It is rather unfortunate that public statements have been released to publicly denigrate the reputation of the Auditor-General and the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) and selectively publish information concerning annual audits. The Auditor-General will not respond directly and publicly to the various allegations contained in these statements.

The Auditor-General and the Office of the Auditor-General is bound by section 8 of the Audit Act 1969 concerning secrecy and the confidentiality aspects of the auditor – client relationship governing the audit profession. In addition, the Office of the Auditor-General will not release any information, not yet publicly available, concerning any audit client, except in the Auditor-General’s Reports to Parliament.

The Office of the Auditor-General accepts that it currently has the enormous challenge and responsibility of auditing backlog draft financial statements, which were not submitted annually over several years, within the resources that it has been allocated.

And the Office of the Auditor- General will continue to work with these State entities to ensure that audits of financial statements are updated The Auditor-General and the Office of the Auditor-General will continue to diligently deliver its responsibilities as mandated by the 2013 Constitution and Audit Act 1969”. - Unquote

The NFP Leader says this Government’s modus operandi is to malign anyone and everyone it dislikes or feels the actions will expose them.

Professor Prasad also says the Government did not want the Opposition to Chair the Public Accounts Committee to scrutinise the Auditor General’s Reports, and changed the Parliamentary Standing Orders.

He also says he knows the recommendations come against the backdrop of a Commission of Inquiry into the Office of the Auditor General appointed by the President on 31st December last year.

Professor Prasad also says the report has the comments of the former Auditor General on the resourcing of the office and control of the office.

He says of course like anyone else, the Auditor-General is not immune from scrutiny or criticism but these have to be based on facts and facts alone, nothing else.



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