NAO says Judiciary Should Be Audited by the Auditor General

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Audit Office (NAO) has stated that the Judiciary should be audited by the Auditor General (AG).

The NAO made this clarification in a press release issued on Sunday 21st April 2024.

The NAO made this assertion in the said presser on its position on the audit of the judiciary and the submission of Financial Statements by public institutions for the auditor General to conduct audit.

According to the release, this constitutional mandate is bestowed on the NAO under section 144(2) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia.

The NAO said it thought it fitting and imperative for the office to share its perspective on the audit of the Judiciary of The Gambia, referencing a press release from the Judiciary dated April 19th, 2024. The NAO hereby clarifies that the Judiciary of The Gambia as a public institution should be audited by the Auditor General under the mandate specified in the 1997 Constitution in Section 160 (1) {c}.

“Since the Judiciary is an autonomous public institution and receives its revenue through an Appropriation by the National Assembly, it is mandated to prepare and submit its financial statements for audit by the NAO in fulfillment of the Constitutional mandate of enhancing accountability and transparency in the use of public resources,” the NAO said.

The audit office explained that Section 144 (2) of the 1997 Constitution states “The Judicature shall be self-accounting and the moneys charged on the Consolidated Fund or appropriated by an Act of the National Assembly for the Judicature shall be paid by the accountant general to the accounting officer for the Judicature as required by the Chief Justice”.

It added “By the above constitutional provision, the Judiciary is required to prepare its separate set of financial statements and submit for audit to account for its use of funds appropriated by the National Assembly. Since it attained self-accounting status, the Judiciary has never provided its set of financial statements to the NAO for the Auditor General to conduct a financial audit of the institution to present an audit opinion on its financial performance in the use of resources allocated to it”.

The office averred that the audit period referred to in the Judiciary’s press release of April 19th was a transaction audit as part of the consolidated audit of the Gambia government where a sample of transactions is normally collected and tested. This was not a separate Financial Audit on the Judiciary.

“The NAO is surprised by the assertion of the Judiciary that it is audited by an external auditor every five years. This is not accurate, and is a big flaw on the part of the Judiciary as it contradicts Section 160 (1) (c) of the 1997 Constitution which is herein reproduced verbatim “at least once in every year audit and report on the public accounts of The Gambia, the accounts of all offices and authorities of the Government of The Gambia, the accounts of the courts, the accounts of the National Assembly and the accounts of all enterprises,” the NAO expressed.

The audit office reminded the general public that the NAO is the mandated institution to audit all public institutions,  and even though the NAO is constrained resource -wise to audit all the public institutions, the NAO Act 2015 provides for the Auditor General to outsource some audits to private audit firms on his/her behalf.  NAO has never outsourced the audit of the Judiciary to any external private auditor.

The Auditor General, as stated by the NAO, wishes to share that on the part of the NAO, the Judiciary of the Gambia has been formally written to on several occasions requesting it to submit its full set of financial statements for the commencement of an audit exercise but to no avail.

“In the spirit of supporting all public institutions to be compliant with the statutory laws and regulations, we have also extended our arms to the Judiciary for a dialogue on the issue of their audit to provide all necessary support, clarification, and guidance. Unfortunately, our meeting requests are yet to be granted. We hope that the National Assembly as the Supreme Oversight body of the country will as a matter of urgency also come in to convene a dialogue on this crucial matter,” said NAO.  

The NAO reaffirm its commitment to strengthening their collaboration as the Judiciary is a very critical stakeholder in the work of the NAO, saying “We are open to dialogue to provide advice in helping to resolve challenges concerning its audit and what constitutes full financial statements”.   

The NAO indicated that the Auditor General wishes to use this opportunity to also remind public entities required to prepare their financial statements for annual audits to ensure they comply with this requirement.

“Late submission of financial statements and in most cases, submission of inaccurate financial statements continue to be one of the biggest challenges of the NAO in its service delivery. This capacity gap ultimately impacts the audit completion timelines and is one reason why some public institutions are still being audited in backlog. We implore all stakeholders especially our auditees to prioritise capacity building of their staff to enhance productivity,” lamented NAO.   

The NAO continues to count on the support and collaboration of all stakeholders in delivering our mandate.

The statement of the Judiciary on this matter included the following:

The Judicial Secretary, serving as the vote controller, has diligently sent all audited reports of the Judiciary from January 2011 to June 2019 to the National Assembly on March 27th, 2024, with copies of the reports also provided to the Auditor General. For the past 15 years, the accounts of the Judiciary have been audited by external auditors every 5 years and we are also expecting them in 2024. These efforts underscore the Judiciary’s steadfast commitment to upholding the highest standards of accountability and compliance.”

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