Rowe backs Monroe Ellis ... says ministry supports reorganisation
Financial Secretary Devon Rowe says the ministry is in full support of a reorganisation of the Auditor General's Department, which would see increased salaries being paid to certain categories of workers and the hiring of additional staff.
"It has taken us a bit longer than we had originally expected, but it is because of the unique circumstance," Rowe told The Gleaner.
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, having been contacted by The Gleaner on Wednesday, said her department was "not at the place where we expected it to be with respect to the reform measures".
Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips announced in Parliament last year that the Auditor General's Department would receive a $150-million injection this fiscal year to boost its capacity to monitor the fiscal rules.
Despite Parliament approving the funds, changes which would allow for increased salaries for those persons under the new organisational structure at the office, as well as the hiring of staff with additional competencies, have not been made to enable the spending of the funds.
"There are still discussions at the Ministry of Finance. I have still not received the requisite approval for certain aspects of the reorganisation, but I am awaiting a response from Finance. We are not at the place we anticipated we would have been at this time," Monroe Ellis told The Gleaner.
Yesterday, Rowe told The Gleaner that the finance ministry would have to look carefully at the proposal for the reorganisation.
"It is reorganisation, but we have to be careful about salary setting, and ensure that we are not creating precedence, that we are looking at it in relation specific to the Auditor General's Department, and it takes a little care and a little time," Rowe said.
Under Jamaica's agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), self-reporting entities must meet the new standard by the end of this year, and all other public bodies must complete timely reports by the end of December 2015.
The new responsibilities for the auditor general will be in addition to examining the Fiscal Policy Paper, which is a requirement under the new fiscal-rules law.
The core function of the auditor general is to conduct audits at least once per year of
the accounts, financial transactions, operations and financial statements of central government ministries and departments, local government agencies, statutory bodies and government companies.
As an element of public-sector reform, the Auditor General's Department will be required to monitor public bodies to ensure that annual reports, including audited financial statements, are completed within six months of the end of the financial year.
"Maybe if I were in the auditor general's position, I would be trying to get in place what I need to have in place to get things done. I know the auditor general is a hard-working lady, who wants to deliver on her objective," Rowe said.
"We have been working and we have had [letters] between us, and none of that has been bad or corrosive. Everything has been very professional, and if the auditor general needs to get her staff, I truly understand that and I am in full support of it as well," Rowe added.