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Reforms to Deal with Audit Issues

Civil service reforms would address audit issues that included alleged corruption, Parliament was reassured yesterday. The reassurance came from Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Service Aiyaz
23 May 2017 11:00
Reforms to Deal with Audit Issues
Keeping on time...Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum outside Parliament during a break on May 22, 2017.Photo: Jone Luvenitoga

Civil service reforms would address audit issues that included alleged corruption, Parliament was reassured yesterday.

The reassurance came from Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Service Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

The issues were raised in a Public Accounts Committee report and the Auditor-General’s Report 2007-2009 tabled in Parliament. PAC had scrutinised the Auditor-General’s Reports.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson, Ashneel Sudhakar, said audit issues like allegations of corruption had been referred to FICAC (Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption).

The recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, showed that Government ministries and departments lacked ownership and accountability from their previous permanent secretaries.

One of the recommendations, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added, was that all future contracts of employment for senior public servants in particular permanent secretaries should include a contract of agreement with the senior official participating as part of the Ministry of Economy’s central requirement.

Any breach of the contract, he added was in breach of the performance contract. It was important that civil servants should have contracts.

“A lot of these times junior accountants were left to handle accounts issues which in the end became problematic,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said one the issues was that even though the financial year closed, there were still problems with postings.

He said the individual ministries would issue cheques but not necessarily in the Financial Management Information Systems. It would actually take three months to post that account of that particular ministry, he said.

He added that Government would address the issues as provided in the Constitution.

Under the Constitution, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, permanent secretaries were the chief accounting officers of each ministry and that they were to be held accountable.

He said a lot of people who worked in accounts were there because of experience as opposed to capacity and knowledge.

The Open Merit Recruitment and Selection Guideline, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added, would also assist addressing these issues.

“We have seen a trend where more people are applying for civil service jobs including those from the private sector because the salary is more attractive and more opportunities for them,” he said.

He said private accountants had shown interest in joining various Government ministries and departments.

“There is no point in trying to protect people if they aren’t doing their job,” he said.

He said some were doing their job others weren’t.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they would ensure that all Government departments and ministries were in line with the Financial Management Information System.

He added they would also see that financial reporting to the Ministry of Economy was reviewed and more reliant.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the recommendation by PAC to include FICAC in their meetings was unconstitutional as FICAC was an independent organisation.

He added that all Government departments and ministries should be put under scrutiny by the Office of the Auditor General.

On the 2015 Auditor General Report, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “Obviously there has been some improvement in respect of the audit that has been carried out, however we also respect there are still some recurring issues in regarding reconciliation and prescribing to rules and procedures.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added that few Government ministries and department had improved.

“It’s not doubt that some ministries are doing better than others and others obviously need a lot of improvement,” he said.

Feedback: arieta.vakasukawaqa@fijisun.com.fj

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