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Auditor General stands by audit findings

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Since the publication of the 2019 Auditor General’s report, and the report on COVID-19 pandemic on December 18, 2020, there has been attempt by some members of the current administration to discredit the findings contained in the said reports.

The two reports, which were tabled in parliament for debate revealed massive irregularities in the handling of funds meant to fight the coronavirus pandemic, as well as those meant to run the affairs of the state.

The stunning revelations embarrassed some government officials, who immediately launched a campaign aimed at discrediting the auditor general’s findings.

On Thursday January 7, 2020, the Audit Service Sierra Leone hosted a presser in the conference of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), where they respond adequately to criticisms and denials of their audit findings.

Contrary to what the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has said, evidence presented by the auditors showed clearly that the 50KVA donated by the Chinese Government to help in the COVID-19 response is still missing. They also disputed information being peddled around with regards the missing 47 laptops.

During the presser, the Auditor General, Lara Talor-Pearce, painstakingly explained how they go about conducting financial statements audit, compliance audit and performance audit during the year under review.

“It is the responsibility of public sector bodies and their appointed officials to be transparent about their actions and accountable to the citizens for the funds with which they are entrusted and exercise good governance over those funds,” she said.

According to her, in public sector external auditing, the burden of proof rest with the auditee because it is his responsibility to provide evidences and proof on how public funds have been spent.

She noted that the time spent during the initial engagement, field work, exit engagement and verification stage of the audit process, gives the auditee sufficient opportunity to not only understand the process but to present to the auditors sufficient evidence that will explain situations that needs clarifications.

“All public sector audit are time bound and cannot go on in perpetuity. When during the course of our work, we are not in our professional judgment satisfy with the evidence presented during the required time frame or were no evidence are presented within that time frame, the matters are brought to the attention of the auditee during the verification process and the audit are concluded,” Mrs. Taylor-Pearce noted.

The Auditor General said the 2019 audit reports consist of all audits carried out during the year under review, using a risk based audit approach, and added; “It must be pointed out that there were few instances were due to the low level of risk in some institutions, combine with the availability of resources to the ASSL, prior year audit were carried out in the current audit year.”

She clarified that the financial statements prepared by the Accountant General rightfully only consisted of all income and expenditure for the year under review, which formed the basis of the audit opinion for 2019.

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