JIS News

The Audit Commission is on a drive to ensure that all government departments, ministries and executive agencies have their individual Audit Committees in place by April of next year.
Chairman of the Audit Commission, Leighton McKnight told JIS News that based on the findings of an evaluation exercise carried out by the Commission since its inception in April of this year, of the 32 ministries, departments and agencies, only 25 per cent were fully compliant in this respect. The intention, he said, was to convert this to 100 per cent by the start of the next fiscal year. “I think if we get the support, based on the plans we have, within a year or so we should see good results,” he said.
Mr. McKnight informed that the Commission has embarked on a programme to help the concerned parties to put the basic structure in place as mandated by the corresponding policy document.
The Audit Commission Chair said that so far, several responses have been received following a meeting with permanent secretaries, during which the requirements of the policy and the law were outlined. He pointed out that following an evaluation of these responses, the appropriate action would be taken.
“Clearly, those that are not in compliance we will have to advise them that they have a very short time in terms of getting compliant. We intend to formulate strategies to ensure that those who are not complying will be dealt with appropriately,” he said, noting that a range of actions could be taken against non-compliant persons, including the dismissal of all committee members and criminal prosecution at the end of the specified period for compliance.
“If they are not compliant, they are in breach of the law and action can be taken. Come the start of the 2006/07 fiscal year, we are of the view that everybody should have their house in order and if it is not in order, we have to ensure that proper action is taken,” he stated.
Mr. McKnight, who is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, said that “effective and efficient audit committees were one of the strongest indications of good governance, both in public and private enterprises worldwide”. Furthermore, he said a proper internal audit function was a strong deterrent to non-compliance as it acted as a preventive and detective measure.
“If persons involved know that if they commit a breach it will be detected and they can be brought to book, that’s a preventive measure and it also acts as a detective measure, so that if they do it, it will be discovered and reported,” he explained.He emphasized that Audit Committees were formidable forces in ensuring accountability in the public sector, noting that Commission members were selected independently.
“The issue of good corporate governance is something that all over the world and in Jamaica the public is crying out for, as it relates to the public sector, and I am confident that if we are able to establish our audit committees, the country will be much better off,” Mr. McKnight said.
The Audit Commission, which was established in April this year, forms part of the Government’s efforts to improve accountability and transparency in the public sector and has oversight responsibility for the various audit committees in government departments, ministries and executive agencies. Audit committees in turn, provide independent, effective oversight on the financial reporting process and internal controls of the agency.
Audit committees, as part of their reporting responsibilities, are required to submit annual reports to a number of persons, including the Financial Secretary, Auditor General, the Accounting Officer of the department, the Chief Internal Auditor and the Audit Commission.

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