• National Federation Party

Biman: Report delay a breach

THE National Federation Party says revelations by the newly-appointed auditor-general that auditor-general’s reports for 2015 will be submitted to Parliament in March is a gross breach of the 2013 Constitution and the Audit (Amendment) Act of 2006.

Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said the delay in submission was causing grave doubts on the authenticity of the reports.

Prof Prasad said the auditor-general’s reports must be submitted to the Speaker of Parliament within nine months of the following year.

“Any tabling of the auditor-general’s reports now will be unconstitutional and a breach of the Audit (Amendment) Act of 2006,” he claimed.

“The 2015 audit reports should have been submitted to Parliament by September 30, 2016. That was the last day of Parliament for 2016.”

He said under Section 152 (14) of the 2013 Constitution, within 30 days of receipt, or if Parliament was not sitting, on the first day after the end of that period, the minister responsible for finance must lay the report before Parliament.

Prof Prasad claimed this was not done by the Minister for Economy, who was out of the country and could not be reached for comments yesterday. He said section 12(1) of the Audit (Amendment) Act of 2006 (Act No. 7 of 2006) states: “A report of the Auditor-General to the Parliament about an audit must be submitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Parliament in this case) within nine months after the year to which the audit relates or within a longer period appointed by the resolution of the House”.

Prof Prasad said when the Auditor-General did not hand the 2015 reports within nine months or by September 30 last year, the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy should have sought parliamentary approval on September 30, which was the last day of sitting for 2016, giving the Auditor-General more time.

“But there has been no such resolution of the House (Parliament) giving the Auditor-General a longer period of time.”

He said the fact that the Auditor-General’s vacancy was not filled last year was not an excuse. “Surely the office had a Deputy Auditor-General who used to appear before the Public Accounts Committee when I was chairman of PAC.

“Even if, for argument’s sake, the delay was expected because the vacancy in the Auditor-General’s position, why didn’t the Minister for Economy and Attorney-General seek a parliamentary resolution to give more time to the Auditor-General.

“In the absence of any adherence to the rule of law as far as complying with tabling of Auditor-General’s Reports is concerned, the question arises as to the authenticity of the audits and the methodology used to scrutinise the State’s 2015 Accounts and financial statements and the compilation of the final report itself that has been greatly delayed,” said Prof Prasad.

In response, the newly-appointed Auditor-General, Ajay Nand said it needed to be understood that there was no Auditor-General in office for the past two years.

“So realistically, I am not sure how the reports would be tabled to Parliament, that’s our position,” he said.

On the question of the authenticity of the reports, he said the reports were based on facts and it was a matter of time for it to be disclosed to Parliament.

“We are working on other reports. There has been a delay and there are a lot of reports in the finalisation stages.

“So once we finalise 2015, then we will finalise the seven months accounts to end of July 2016 and then the current financial year which ends on July 17.”

Mr Nand said his office was also trying to clear the backlog.

“It is a big job because the seven months accounts have given us additional task to do.

“We are sort of working together and putting things in order so we are catching up a bit, but in time to come we should be there.”

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?ref=archive&id=391044

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