Sunday, February 5, 2023

AG: Supreme Audit Institution Is An Essential Pillar Of Parliamentary Democracy

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The Gambia’s Auditor General (AG), Mr Karamba Touray, has said that the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) is an essential pillar of parliamentary democracy.

He said this on Saturday while speaking at the orientation workshop for the legislative members of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) and Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) of the assembly.

He said if it were not for the SAI’s reports on the use of public funds, parliament would be unable to exercise its power of control over the government, which would ultimately impair its budgetary sovereignty.

“This demonstrates that the SAI is an essential pillar of parliamentary democracy. By exercising its government audit function on behalf of parliament as the holder of supreme control prerogative, the SAI greatly strengthens parliament’s budgetary authority,” he said.

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He told the participating legislative officials that SAIs were established to fulfil a financial auditing function, such as to provide assurance that a government’s financial statements fairly reflect the revenues collected and expenditure incurred.

“Over the last 30 years or so, however, the demands on SAIs have expanded to include considerations of how well government bodies perform their work, typically looking at the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the use of resources and service delivery,” he said.

He stated that citizens and their elected representatives increasingly demand that SAIs go beyond judgements of compliance and accuracy to also evaluate government performance and the value for money obtained through government transactions.

Decisions about how to allocate public funds between agencies and activities, he said, not only reflect a government’s policy and service delivery goals, but also decisions about where to spend money, which are only effective if such money is actually spent as intended and in an appropriate way. He said that the SAIs are among the most important agencies for ensuring this actually happens, saying though the government itself plays the primary role in implementing the budget, it is the SAI that checks whether the budget has been implemented appropriately.

The SAIs under the 1977 Lima Declaration, states that through their auditing work, SAIs should pursue four objective to communication of information to public authorities and the general public through the publication of objective reports

He added: “The objectives also include development of sound financial management, proper execution of administrative activities and proper and effective use of public funds”.

Touray said the legislature through their parliamentary audit committees should play an important role in enforcing audit findings and recommendations, adding that the two separate institutions have mutually supportive roles in ensuring effective governance.

Similarly, AG Touray explained that SAI could be more effective when its parliament provides both a forum for the presentation and discussion of the SAI’s report and making and enforcing recommendation for implementation therefrom.

“The power to exercise control over the manner in which the government implements the budget is a necessary complement to the power of budget appropriation. A democratic state ultimately vests these rights in parliament, the body acting as the true and democratically legitimised auditor,” AG Touray said.

He however stated that while parliament exercises its right of budget appropriation, it does not have the human and administrative resources to exercise control over budget implementation.

For this task, he said parliament depends on the SAIs; hence, there is a close relationship between the two in democratic states.

“There is growing recognition of the importance that Supreme Audit Institutions play in ensuring accountability and good governance. Good linkages of the audit process with parliament are essential for its effectiveness,” he told the convergence.

He said the SAI’s importance to parliament derives primarily from the information on the government’s use of budgetary funds obtained through the audit the SAI performs.

“For this reason, national law usually provides for the SAI to report to parliament about its audit activity. This corresponds to the requirement in the Lima Declaration that the SAI be empowered and required by the Constitution to independently report its findings to parliament (Sect. 16.1),” he said.

AG Touray maintained that if it were not for the SAI’s reports on the use of public funds, parliament would be unable to exercise its power of control over the government, which would ultimately impair its budgetary sovereignty.

He said the audit reports of the SAI enable parliament to demand that public bodies, above all the government, assume their political responsibility and to resort to the parliamentary instruments of control.

“In our system of checks and balances, the Accountability cycle is completed by the National Assembly discussing and acting on the recommendation(s) in the audit reports submitted to it,” he said.

AG Touray said the stronger growth in the relationship has led to a broadening of knowledge in audit related matters by members of parliament, saying.

He added: “It has also helped parliament to perform its supervisory functions over the executive more efficiently and effectively.”

He reiterated that the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government, to throw the light of publicity on its acts to compel a full exposition, and justification of all of them which anyone considers.

He said that would enable them to censure them if found condemnable, and if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, to expel them and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors.

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