RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Public Service: Pamela Monroe Ellis - Building a better country through scrutiny
When Pamela Monroe Ellis was informed that she had been nominated for the 2018 RJRGLEANER Honour Award for Public Service, the country's chief guardian of public expenditure attributed any significant achievement by her agency to team effort.
Tasked with a constitutional mandate to oversee public expenditure, the Auditor General's Department's (AGD) team of auditors is not necessarily welcomed with open arms whenever they show up at government ministries, agencies, or public bodies to conduct a plethora of audits.
Monroe Ellis said that her auditors are faced with real challenges, especially when they are examining an area where there are "sensitivities and concerns".
However, the auditor general said that her team does not focus on personalities when carrying out its probe, but approaches its investigation in a dispassionate way.
"I am attacking the issue and the weakness at hand," said Monroe Ellis, who was flanked by her team of senior auditors and other staff at the agency during an interview at the AGD in New Kingston.
While some government departments may, seemingly, be petrified as they come under the microscope of the AGD, Monroe Ellis said that her team engages the agency to be audited by organising an entrance meeting in which the purpose of the audit is explained.
She noted, however, that pushback from government agencies has waned in recent times.
When asked if Jamaicans should hold their breaths with the hope of seeing significant reductions in government breaches any time soon, Monroe Ellis said, "We should not hold our breath. We should act."
"That change that we all desire must start with us," she said, adding that other critical stakeholders such as the media, civil society groups, the Church, and the citizenry have a role to play.
Last year, Monroe Ellis and her team delivered a gripping report on the operations of Petrojam and its parent company, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica. The damning report confirmed and laid bare allegations of cronyism and nepotism as well as the wanton spending of taxpayers' money on surprise parties for then Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Wheatley.
Having penned a litany of performance-audit reports, activity-based reports, special reports, among others, Monroe Ellis said that at the end of the day, her team feels a sense of accomplishment that it has made a positive impact on the country.
"I am personally driven. I am not overzealous, and I approach my work dispassionately, but more importantly, I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the principle of making a positive contribution, and that's what drives me," the auditor general said.
"It is the satisfaction that what is done in this department is done with the aim of not really for rewards and recognition, but being able to say that we have been able to make a positive impact through our report and work."
She asserted that the vision statement of the AGD - 'A better country through effective audit scrutiny' - has anchored her team.
Shunning any sign of mediocrity, the auditor general said that she is driven by the principle of pursuing excellence.
This declaration received a resounding endorsement from Gayle Llewellyn, a deputy auditor general at the AGD, who said that Monroe Ellis portrayed discipline in her approach to work.
"And that is very important as she leads by example because what she says is also what she does. It gives her staff comfort to know that because she demands excellence of them, and she demonstrates excellence, then the opportunity for you to progress beyond your immediate boundaries will always be there."
Christopher Hare, another senior auditor at the AGD, described Monroe Ellis as an innovator.
"She has always been innovative, responding to changes and improving on ideas. You will not be comfortable writing a report and say, 'That's the last one we have written. It's good'," Hare said, adding that the auditor general would always see scope for improvement to provide a greater impact.
SETTING AN EXAMPLE
With the intense and sharp scrutiny the AGD applies to government departments, Monroe Ellis said that it is imperative that her agency use the same measuring stick and ensure that it can also withstand careful examination.
"As a leader, I believe that I have a responsibility to set an example to those who I have been given that task and responsibility to lead. I also have to inspire their confidence and motivate them to actually want to perform in a positive way, and all those principles have guided me in the past couple of years."
In addition to her arduous duties of policing the spending of public resources locally, Monroe Ellis balances her time by volunteering her services to both regional and international audit institutions.
"One of the elements or attributes I believe that a leader should possess, or that a leader should capitalise on to prepare for leadership, is volunteerism. I believe that in giving, you gain."
She added: "The world is so dynamic that you are not going to grow in your own backyard. You have to have an understanding of what is happening elsewhere.
"I capitalised when the opportunity presented itself. When I was asked to participate, I said yes," Monroe Ellis said of her involvement in volunteerism.