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Auditor general urges public-sector workers to report corruption

Published:Friday | May 22, 2015 | 5:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis.

WHILE ADMITTING that reporting the improper conduct of an employer or fellow employee in the public sector, to the relevant authorities, is not the easiest of tasks, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis has urged accountants and auditors to, nevertheless, blow the whistle.

"It may become necessary for those charged with governance to whistle in order for unacceptable governance practices to be made known to the respective authorities," Monroe Ellis charged, during a presentation Wednesday at the Business Conference 2015 of the Institute of Internal Auditors, Jamaica chapter.

The parley was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre under the theme: 'Corporate Governance - Are We Making Progress?'.

"I will not pretend that whistle-blowing will be an easy task for most, it is for that reason why I spoke of seeking counselling. This may be very necessary for most persons. While I profess that, as persons charged with governance, we should seek to earn the trust of the public, I am equally mindful that some of us are captured by fear, because of the distrust we may harbour for persons charged with the responsibility for governance," the auditor general asserted.

 

Protects whistle-blowers

 

She reminded the accounting professionals that legislation was passed to protect whistle-blowers. The Protected Disclosure Act, according to Monroe Ellis, encourages and facilitates an employee making specified disclosures of improper conduct by an employer or another employee in the public's interest.

The auditor general pointed out that the law sought to regulate how information was received and provided protection for employees who whistled from being subjected to what she described as "occupational detriment".

This means that the person who has whistled may be subject to disciplinary action, dismissed, suspended, demoted, harassed, intimidated, victimised or transferred against their will.

Monroe Ellis also told her audience that there was a thirst for transparency and accountability in Jamaica at this time, to bridge the chasm of distrust that members of the public harbour for public institutions. "Some of the ills are perceived; but the perception is sufficiently influential to be disruptive. Our role as accountants/auditors and board member is to chip away at the rock of distrust by ensuring that governance arrangements are sufficiently robust to ensure that the entities' specific contributions to society are attained," she said.

The auditor general outlined what some of the components a good governance structure must entail to ensure that the entity's mandate is achieved.

She said an established mandate or objective should be crafted, noting that some mandates are not explicit, understood or even achievable.

In addition, a legal policy framework must be in place encompassing the Constitution, the Financial Audit and Administration Act, Corporate Governance and Accountability Framework and a myriad of guidelines.

Another component of the governance structure highlighted by Monroe Ellis is a risk-responsive control environment to govern the business process coupled with a risk-oriented strategic business plan, aligned to the National Development Plan - Vision 2030.

She also emphasised the need for a monitoring mechanism which aims to prevent, detect, correct deficiencies by holding persons accountable for actions due to disregard for established rules and guidelines or through negligent action. Without such a system, she stressed, a governance framework is rendered useless and ineffective.

In recent years, the Government's governance process has been boosted by the establishment of an Audit Commission, which has oversight for the audit committees, and the introduction of the corporate governance and accountability frameworks and the revision of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act.