Categorized | National News

Auditor General Defends His Position

Auditor General Terrance Bastian broke his silence yesterday and confirmed that an audit can and may be performed on a department upon a risk-based assessment.

Mr. Bastian noted that although his office is short on staff, competent auditors are employed to examine all government departments in an effort to promote transparency and accountability.

“We should do an audit on an annual basis, but that’s near impossible based on the number of staff that we have. We find ourselves sometimes in a position looking at risk-base to determine which department may have a greater risk and so based on revenue and expenditure from a particular department we may determine we’ll do that one this year, this one the next year and so on,” Mr. Bastian said.

“If there seems to be a concern, we will then shift and do something,” he added.

Recently an auditor’s report involving the Urban Renewal’s Small Home Repairs Programme surfaced that suggested the misuse of government funds and called for transparency and due diligence.

The report sparked irate feedback from the programme’s Co-chairs Algernon Allen and Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, and more recently, comments were made by attorneys who deemed the audit request by the Public Accounts Committee “unconstitutional.”

In a interview with Mr. Bastian at his office yesterday, he asserted that concerns regarding any government agency are allowed to come from various sources, including whistleblowers.

However, he said his discretion is used to determine whether or not the audit will actually take place.

“With Bahamian people, when they have an issue you can get a telephone call. It’s no different from the news getting a little letter, but also people within the department themselves sometimes may scream “you need to come to us” or “you didn’t come to us last year, when are you coming to us?” That’s just the nature of the job. All those things come into play,” Mr. Bastian said.

He reiterated recent calls from various government officials to implement a law to protect whistleblowers in the country as he referred to whistleblowing as “a part of good governance.”

In their defense, the co-chairs held a press conference to address the auditor’s report, stating that relevant persons within the programme were not contacted for the audit to be accurately completed or even released.

However, Mr. Bastian said that in accordance with office procedure an “exit conference” is conducted to document discrepancies.

“We always, always confer with the head of department and the head of any department is the permanent secretary,” Mr. Bastian said.

“When my staff has completed an audit, the auditors would have what you call an exit meeting with the stakeholders. At times, based on the audit, they would come back to me with the conclusions of what happened. Depending on the magnitude of the audit, I would sometimes have them bring the stakeholders to my office. I will sit with the stakeholder and the auditors, and I will personally go through the draft report line for line,” he added.

Mr. Bastian, who spent five years at the United Nations’ internal audit section, suggested that in compliance with international standards, civil society should be used to assist in the audit process.

He confirmed that an Audit Committee at the Ministry of Finance is, in fact, in place to ensure persons implement the recommendations made in an audit report.

Mr. Bastian maintained that his office’s work is essential to a democracy and is a duty performed to “encourage good governance.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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