The Finance and Public Accounts Committee committee of the National Assembly headed by the speaker Mariama Jack Denton, on Wednesday February 13th adopted the activity reports of the National Audit Office (NAO), with recommendations for improvement on important areas.
Auditor General Karamba Touray, presented the reports outlining the functions, operational activities and challenges faced by his office.
According to Touray, Section 160 of the Constitution described the unique role of the operations of NAO, as the supreme auditing body in the country; that independence, confidentiality, equal opportunity among others, are the core values of their functions. Touray said staff of his office must be confidential, professional, open to communication among others, in their day to day service delivery.
"During the year ended 31st December, 273 audits have been conducted nationwide by the office of the Auditor General. 14 staff have been sponsored at the University, to acquire degrees and 12 have already graduated," said Touray. The Auditor General also complained of challenges faced as a result of not having their own complex; that they share a facility with the Ministry of Trade, Infrastructure, Regional Integration and Employment; that they do not have a special meeting room; that this why when they want to have a meeting, they usually borrow office space within the Ministry. Touray informed Members of the smooth progress of their newly constructed office complex which when completed, will have all the facilities they will need.
On challenges faced by his office, Touray highlighted mobility, limited staff, lack of autonomy in terms of administration and accessing finance, as a major factor hindering their performance; that when they budgeted for their yearly activities, it has to go to the president for approval; that sometimes, what is requested for approval, is not approve and even the amount approved is not easily received from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. He further told Deputies that acting on the Constitution, 75% of their funds should be saved but because they have an agreement with the Ministry of Finance, 100% of their funds is spent to facilitate the construction of their new office complex; that the agreement also includes the diversion of all access fund from their expenditure, to a special account at the Central Bank for the smooth construction of their office complex.
Pa Modou Ann and Mr Gomez of the GPPA, highlighted the areas where the NAO was compliant with the Procurement Act; that they have met 85% satisfaction. Commenting on the percentage awarded to the NAO, the Member for Wuli West Sidia Jatta, expressed concern and doubt on how GPPA arrived at awarding the National Audit Office 85%, when the said percentage contained in their reports, talks about the institution and not its activities. He cited page 5 of the GPPA regarding the filling of the GPPA's requisite form which NAO was not found to be compliant with, and cited pages 6, 7 and 8 where NAO was again not found to be compliant. He quoted the Auditor General's remark where he said "they are the supreme auditing body". Jatta said that such an institution should not be found wanting. He told them that he expected them to register at least 100% satisfaction. "This cannot be allowed to continue. You are a key institution that should be found to be compliant," emphasized Jatta. He suggested the NAO should be used to account for the fuel and Government's vehicles that are awarded to PS and Directors. "I think, we would have to see how we can tackle this," he urged. Speaker Mariam Jack Denton, emphasized on the need for vehicle caring and maintenance in order to ensure their sustainability.
Responding to Member's concerns, Karamba Touray reminded Law makers that there is already a vehicle policy in place that needs to be enforced.
Majority Leader Kebba Barrow sought NAO to clarify the local and overseas travel expenses indicated in their reports. Members asked NAO to clarify the financial access interference by Government, reminding them that they are an independent body.
In response, Auditor General Touray said: "Independent is a name but in reality, we are not administratively independent, nor financially autonomous." The speaker suggested to members to enact a special section that will give NAO full autonomy.