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Media Under Audit Fire

Public Accounts Committee chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar says without testimonies from Government ministries and action taken after audit closure, there cannot be an accurate assessment of the Office of the Auditor-General’s
27 Jul 2017 11:15
Media Under Audit Fire
Public Accounts Committee chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar , 26th July 2017, PHOTO: Atama Tamanilo

Public Accounts Committee chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar says without testimonies from Government ministries and action taken after audit closure, there cannot be an accurate assessment of the Office of the Auditor-General’s Report 2016.

The prominent parliamentarian called a press conference last night to express his concern over the way The Fiji Times and some other media organisations had reported the content of the report.

He accused The Fiji Times of pre-empting and undermining the work of the Public Accounts Committee.

He said The Fiji Times had sought to apply a superficial and sensational analysis of the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report.

Mr Sudhakar clarified that the review and recommendations contained in the report were at the initial stage of a comprehensive and objective assessment of Government’s spending and reporting.

As part of the committee’s assessment, they would call on Government ministries and Government-funded institutions to provide context to the findings in the report.

“Without testimonies from Government ministries and Government-funded institutions or full understanding of actions taken following closure of the audit review period, there cannot be an accurate assessment of the findings in the Office of the Auditor-General Report,” Mr Sudhakar said.

Rather than respecting a thorough and impartial assessment that would be carried out by the committee, he said the selective reporting of the Auditor-General’s Report undermined the role of the committee in determining the quality of Government’s financial controls by failing to consider the vital context that would emerge during the Public Accounts Committee assessment.

“Once the report is presented to the Public Accounts Committee, its content can be evaluated and Government and Government-funded institutions will have the opportunity to testify on the findings of the report.

The Fiji Times reporting prior to this process is irresponsible and extremely dodgy,” he said.

He said it affected the effectiveness of the constitutional control that ensured transparency and accountability in Government.

Mr Sudhakar added the way in which issues were put on the Fiji Times online website clearly showed that it was a strategy of trying to sell the newspaper.

“The Public Accounts Committee is deeply disturbed with the way it’s reported in The Fiji Times and some other media organisations,” he said.

He said it was like putting the cart before the horse.

Public Accounts Committee is expected to scrutinise the 2016 Office of the Auditor-General’s Report in later this year.

Fiji Times response

Fred Wesley, the editor-in-chief of The Fiji Times, said it was unfortunate that Mr Sudhakar had accused The Fiji Times and other media of sensationalising the Auditor-General’s reports.

“The Fiji Times has been reporting on the Auditor-General’s annual reports for decades,” he said.

“The Auditor-General’s Report is a Parliamentary paper. It is presented to the representatives of the people in Parliament.

“It is an important tool to hold a Government financially accountable to the taxpayers in a democratic country.

“The news media plays an important role in ensuring that the people know what it says.

“Mr Sudhakar complains that our reporting is not balanced. But the Auditor-General’s report is already balanced. The Auditor-General gets explanations from Government departments and reports them.

“The Fiji Times reports these explanations also.

“We have no intention of undermining the role of the PAC.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  arieta.vakasukawaqa@fijisun.com.fj

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