By: Kebba AF Touray
The Gambia’s Auditor General, of the National Audit Office (NAO) Mr. Karamba Touray, has said that the Supreme Audit institutions are critical parts of the national accountability architecture.
Mr. Touray said this yesterday while launching the Auditors Report on Government expenditure of the COVID19 Fund Response.
“Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) have a critical role in holding governments to account and enabling legislative oversight. SAIs are a critical part of the national accountability architecture”, he said.
He added that given their mandates to “watch over government accounts, operations and performance, they should be natural partners of citizens in exercising public scrutiny, and that the scope of the work of SAIs is to increase transparency for the benefit of citizens through external auditing.
“The effectiveness of SAIs’ operations can be greatly enhanced through sustained interaction with the various stakeholders which include the executive, legislature, media, civil society organizations and the citizens”, he added.
He stated that the effectiveness with which SAIs fulfill their role of holding the government to account for the use of public money, not only depends on the quality of their work, but also on how effectively they are working in partnership with the accountability functions of the legislature, as well as the executive arm of government.
This will ensure that the audit findings and enacting change of enhanced SAI stakeholder engagement can lead to greater audit impact and enable the SAI in delivering envisaged value and benefits.
“That is why in our strategic plan 2020 to 2024, we have identified stakeholder engagement as a strategic imperative. When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in The Gambia in March 2020, in April of the same year”, he said.
“My Office sent a reminder through an official letter to all key stakeholders in government about the need for proper public financial management even in emergency situations. Accordingly, as the Gambia recorded its first case in March of 2020, Gambia Government re-allocated some funds for use as support mechanisms to businesses and citizens at large, to mitigate the difficult situations brought about by the emergence of the pandemic.”
The National Audit Office he said, is the Supreme Audit Institution of The Gambia and it is mandated by the Constitution to track and report (through an audit process) government spending of public resources even in emergency situations.
Thus he stressed, following the government’s use of public resources to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, my Office started the audit process with a risk assessment that identified different subject matters which were ranked according to their assessed risk level and materiality.
As a result, Procurement and Distribution of Food and Medical supplies were ranked the highest and that is how we arrived at the scope for the COVID-19 PHASE 1 special audit.
He explained that after successful completion of the audit exercise, we are glad to report that the audit report was submitted and discussed in the National Assembly and subsequently shared on the NAO website for public access and discussion.
“The ultimate goal of this special audit on the COVID-19 Response was to track and report on government’s response and measures to the COVID-19 pandemic; hold government to account in the use of public resources and recommend ways to strengthen government’s response to this emergency situation, as well as future emergencies”, said Mr. Touray.
He informed the convergence that the report is specific to the procurement and distribution of food and medical items within the Greater Banjul Area and some part of West Coast.
The next report called the PHASE 2, will include a report on the following;
Distribution of food and medical items to the other regions;
Allowances paid to frontline works (health /security;)
Support to media houses;
Support to overseas students;
Cash payments to registered tourist businesses and workers;
Flow of funds audit; and
Payment to quarantine centers
“We anticipate sending this phase 2 report to the National Assembly and publish on the NAO website very soon. Once made public, we hope there will be increased access to the report as well as further discussions by all concerned stakeholders”, he said.
He noted the challenges confronting some of their stakeholders in reviewing and understanding audit reports, his office is working to produce more simplified versions of the audit reports which basically will be in simple language and summarized content including graphics.
“This initiative is geared towards ensuring there is a more citizen-friendly audit product which citizens can read and understand easily. In addition to the simplified audit products, we have also started to design one-pager infographics of some of the reports which we share on our social media handles (Twitter and LinkedIn) as well as on the NAO website”, buttressed.
He concluded by reinforcing the appreciation of his office for the collaboration with civil society, media and academia in their efforts to further share the contents of the NAO audit reports.
“On our part, we will continue to explore ways to make our audit reports much more understandable and hope that with our joint efforts, much impact will be gained and those charged with the management of our public resources will ensure due processes are always followed in all situations”, AG Touray concluded.