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Public sector reform increase auditor general workload ....but she is not yet able to spend $150 to attract best minds

Published:Wednesday | October 22, 2014 | 4:24 PM

AUDITOR General Pamela Monroe Ellis has expressed unease with the pace at which efforts to strengthen her office as part of enhancing transparency in the public sector have been proceeding.

"The department is not at the place where we expected it to be with respect to the reform measures," the auditor general told The Gleaner when contacted yesterday.

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.

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.

Fiscal Policy Paper

The new responsibilities for the auditor general will be in addition to examining the Fiscal Policy Paper (FPP), 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.

"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 said.

$150-million injection

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 rule.

Despite Parliament approving the money, changes which would allow for increased salaries for those persons with the new organisational structure at the office, as well as the hiring of staff with additional competencies has not been made to enable the spending of the funds.

"If nothing more is done between now and my annual report, you can expect that I will say something about it then," Monroe Ellis said.

Horace Dalley, the minister without portfolio in the finance ministry, who has carriage of public-sector reform and other public-sector-related matters, had committed to speaking with The Gleaner on the matter.

However, at press time, The Gleaner had yet to make contact with him.