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Chairman of the government’s Audit Commission, Leighton McKnight, has urged professionals working on public sector audit committees to exercise vigilance in carrying out their duties.
“In the public sector, the margin for error does not exist. In the private sector you can make a mistake but in the public sector, when you do so, it is called corruption,” he warned.
“Your focus should be in fixing the irregularities that exist so that we will all have a better country to live in and when the transparency index comes out, Jamaica will be much lower down the scale in terms of not being rated high for corruption,” Mr. McKnight stressed, as he addressed an audit committee workshop recently, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
The workshop was held in collaboration with the Internal Audit Directorate in the Public Expenditure Policy Co-ordination Division of the Ministry of Finance and Planning under the theme: ‘Strengthening Governance through the effective use of Audit Committees’.
According to Mr. Knight, audit committees were responsible for reviewing and approving the audit plans, budgets, schedules and charters of the internal audit departments.
The committees also have a responsibility to ensure that all internal audits carried out were in keeping with acceptable standards, he stated, adding that they should also peruse and discuss audit reports, as well as request investigations of specific areas as needed.
Detailing the Commission’s authority, Mr. McKnight said the oversight body could seek and obtain information from relevant entities to resolve issues presented by audit committees, as well as summon members of management, auditors or other persons to appear before the body.
Additionally, the Audit Commission is authorized to dismantle non-performing committees or dismiss non-performing members, and also seek professional and legal advice from any government regulatory body.
Mr. McKnight explained to the auditors that the operations of the Commission also extended to “maintaining files with charters, reports, and correspondence for each entity under watch”.
The Commission reviews audit committee reports for action, if necessary, and carries out annual evaluations of audit committees and reports its findings to the Minister of Finance, the Cabinet Secretary and the Cabinet.
Appointed in 2005, the Audit Commission’s duty is to ensure the continued effectiveness of audit committees in all Government ministries, departments and agencies.
In addition to Mr. McKnight, the six-member body comprises Colin Greenland, Executive Member of the Institute of Internal Auditors, who serves as the Commission’s Vice Chairman; Robert Martin, Deputy Financial Secretary of the Finance Ministry’s Public Expenditure Co-ordination Division; Hillary Alexander, Senior Director in the Office of the Cabinet Secretary; Rolda Grey, Deputy Financial Secretary of the Finance Ministry’s Public Expenditure Division, and Pamela Monroe-Ellis, Divisional Director in the Auditor General’s Department.