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JIS News

Chairman of the Audit Commission, Leighton McKnight, has said that Jamaica’s ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index for the 2006/07 fiscal year could improve, if all audit committees in state agencies became operational by year-end.
Eighty-five per cent of government ministries, departments and executive agencies have established audit committees, up from 25 per cent in September. “To date, approximately 27 of a possible 32 ministries, agencies and government departments have established audit committees,” Mr. McKnight told JIS News.
Transparency International had ranked Jamaica 64th of 158 countries in its 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index. The index rates countries in terms of perceived levels of corruption.
Mr. McKnight said, “many times, international bodies come to Jamaica to evaluate and conduct interviews to assess what procedures we have or do not have in place” and it was advantageous to have audit committees in place.
He pointed out however that, “it is another thing to have effective committees. If these and other initiatives are implemented and monitored consistently, Jamaica’s ranking ought to improve where corruption perception is concerned.”
The Audit Commission operates as an oversight body for audit committees. When it was established in April this year, it began to advise all government ministries, departments and executive agencies to take the necessary steps to ensure that audit committees were in place by April 2006 and that they were operating efficiently.
Speaking of the Commission’s work since its inception, Mr. McKnight emphasized, “it is early days yet. However, I am pleased with the accomplishments so far, given the short period of time since the Commission’s establishment.”
The Audit Commission’s mandate is to ensure that audit committees become an effective management tool to maximize the use of resources, minimize risk and encourage proper financial reporting. Audit Committees therefore, function as deterrents to would-be offenders within ministries, agencies and government departments. It also serves to prevent corruption and mismanagement of funds.
“Our issue is not only with corruption but also with mismanagement. In other words, corruption implies misappropriation of funds but there can be a situation where individuals just waste money, which can be just as bad, as in either case the taxpayer did not get dollar value for his money,” noted Mr. McKnight.
While the Commission has purview over state agencies, this does not include government-owned entities that are guided by the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act of 2001.
These entities include, but are not limited to the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).
Mr. McKnight said that the Audit Commission would strive to instill in audit committee members, that the system was there to be a preventive measure rather than a detective one.
“Yes, we would like to catch the offender stealing, but the goal is to sensitize government workers that there are measures in place to detect fraud and recklessness and that there will be zero tolerance for those caught. People need to know that it is no longer about detection. We want individuals to be accountable for their actions and (to know) that there are consequences,” declared Mr. McKnight.