Joint Public Accounts Committee holds first public meeting

Joint Public Accounts Committee holds first public meeting

The Joint Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives held its first public hearing yesterday in the National Assembly’s Committee Room in Belmopan. The committee, chaired by Albert Area Representative, Tracy Taegar-Panton, met with the Acting Auditor General, Dorothy Bradley. Bradley, as you will remember, returned to the public service after she retired and for the next two years, she will be the acting Auditor General. During Bradley’s tenure as Auditor General, Bradley submitted 43 management reports, which are separate from the audited reports, her office is mandated to annually. As we understand it, these reports are mini-audits, conducted on a specific area of interest within any ministry of the government department. She was asked about those reports and what they mean for the work of her office – and their role in monitoring government spending. 

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “Mrs.Bradley your reappointment as the Acting Auditor General happened in September of last year ? Am I correct ? September of last year. Prior to your leaving the office you had shared with this committee a list of management reports that were being pursued. I think there’s 43, a list of 43 management reports prepared by your office that submission was made to us on November 29th of 2021. Would you be able to share with us, Auditor General, where are we with this list of management reports and will this form the basis of the work you will continue to do outside of what you get from the Accountant General’s Office ?”

Dorothy Bradley, Acting Auditor General: “Those reports are outside of the financial statements and so those would have been records that were completed or pending completion so for the most part those are completed.”

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “In your discussions with us previously Auditor General you said that these reports that were pending some response from the respective ministries so are we to understand now that responses have been received ?”

Dorothy Bradley, Acting Auditor General: “Not in all instances. What I have done is taken the liberty to put at the bottom of all of the reports a deadline, a time frame for response and if a response is not forthcoming then we complete with that report but state that we have not received a response. And I think that point is also very important for the financial statements because the Auditor General will get upon receiving those financial statements three months, 90 days to complete the actual auditing and reporting but by right when you do an audit you should get a response from the audit team based on what you’ve found so that in some instance maybe some things can be clarified while others will not but when you don’t get a response then it creats a problem. In the case of the financial statements I can’t recall us getting responses on time or any at all in some instances for those past records that have been submitted which then creates also a problem because the findings are not clearly justified or clarified by the entity.”

In the discussion, Bradley was also asked about the time it takes to produce these annual audited reports. Generally, audits of each department take up to a year but the expectation is that audits take three months. Here’s how she explained the process and why it is so critical to constant checks needed to monitor government spending. 

Dorothy Bradley, Acting Auditor General: “I think that it is very important that those deliberating understand the process, the entire process because within the accountability cycle and framework it requires that as auditors we are the external auditors for government. There’s another part of the auditing  that deals with the internal aspect and the internal auditors would do the day to day examination of all transactions and activities taking place on a daily basis, that does not exist. So the burden then when the financial statements come to the Auditor General and for argument’s sake I would say to you that the accounts are in excess of eight thousand plus accounts and when I say that because for example if you look at any ministry, any department the structure is the same as it relates to the budgeting and the appropriations it is done by line. So for example a ministry will have a line for salaries, a line for subsistence, that line for salaries that’s an account because it isn’t one activity but activity for the whole department which would be in the case of maybe treasury or immigration or customs that are bigger hundreds of activities happening with one line. So you have in excess of eight thousand plus lines realistically without an internal audit division to monitor the day to day activities and maybe that was happening in the past with the FOs but I don’t know that that is happening and to what extent. So the gap it is huge and so when I receive those statements I place myself not necessarily at an advantage but because I was a former Accountant General then I would know from a risk standpoint the areas to look at but it does not necessarily mean that the other areas are not as important or maybe even more activities happening. So realistically we are analyzing – and not fully – figures submitted in its entirety as opposed to drilling the lines to examine.”

The Committee also spoke to the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight and the Accountant General, Teresita Miranda. The Committee examined the general findings of the Auditor General’s reports for 2012-2013 and a minority report of the Public Accounts Committee of 2018. The committee meets on February 20. In addition to the chair, Tracy Panton, Ministers Julius Espat, Kareem Musa and Dolores Balderamos-Garcia attended along with Senators Kevin Herrera, Janelle Chanona and Elena Smith. Neither Minister Kevin Bernard nor Area Representative Hugo Patt attended.

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