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Auditor General's Department says it's not to be blamed for audit backlog

Published:Monday | August 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Auditor General's Department (AGD) has indicated that it is not to be blamed for a backlog of audits for several government agencies.

A number of the agencies, which are yet to publish annual reports, some from as far back as 2006, have attributed the delay to the fact that they are still awaiting audited statements from the AGD which, by law, must be included in the annual report.

The AGD has said, however, that it is the agencies themselves that are culpable for the backlog of incomplete audited statements.

A senior officer in the department told The Gleaner that audits may not be completed because of issues with documents and records required by the AGD.

"Most of the time when they say we have their statements, there is something wrong with the statements. We would not have statements that are OK and be sitting on them," said the AGD officer, who asked not to be identified.

The officer went on to explain that there are a number of issues that affect the completion of audits.

"Most times, there are errors. Sometimes the records that they have don't agree with the statement. Sometimes when we go to do the audit, there is something that is missing that is not included, so those are the reasons. It is not that we have the statements and we are not working on them," the officer explained.

WORKS IN PROGRESS

According to the officer, "some of them are works in progress - the auditors have done it and returned it for them to do the corrections and get it signed, so I know those are the general challenges we face."

Information received from the AGD revealed that the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica, the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) and the Institute of Jamaica are some of the organisations for which a backlog of audits exists.

The last statements certified for the IOJ by the auditor general was for the 2005-2006 financial year. Audits for the years 2006-2007 to 2013-2014 have been outsourced to a private audit firm. The AGD says it has been informed that these audits are to be completed by November of this year.

Another organisation with a crippling backlog is the NCDA which was last certified by the AGD for its 2006-2007 statements. The AGD has disclosed that the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 audit field work for the NCDA has been completed and working papers are being reviewed along with draft financial statements with a view for return of statements to the client for signing.

The AGD has pointed out that it has rolled out a number of measures to address audits that it was not able to complete because of a shortage of staff. Since that time, the department has recruited additional staff and implemented an overtime system that significantly increased the number of audits completed.

The agency has argued that the backlog has not been completely cleared because of poor record keeping and accounting practices of the agencies for which no current audited statements are available. This, the AGD says, hampers its ability to complete audits and prepare statements.

"If the accounts are not properly done, if they are not fairly presented, then we are going to return them and they are going to say that they cannot submit their annual report because we are holding up the statements," the AGD official said.

The official also argued that the accounting and record-keeping capacity of some agencies needs to be strengthened so that audits can be completed in a timely manner.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com