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Auditor General speaks to Standard

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By Omar Bah

Auditor General Modou Ceesay said the National Audit Office’s transparency and unwavering integrity in ensuring that public funds are judiciously utilised will not be compromised.

Ceesay replaced Karamba Touray, whose distinguished public service career as auditor general has earned him a reputation as a candid worker, reflecting the unbending virtues of the traditional professional civil servant now rare. Following Ceesay’s appointment, concerns were raised about whether he would turn into a poodle controlled by No. 1 Marina and compromise the brilliant work that the NAO has done over the past 10 years under Mr Touray.

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But speaking in a Standard exclusive recently at his office, Ceesay said he was aware of the tremendous work done by his predecessor, and he is committed to building on that to improve the work of the NAO. He said the NAO will continue to publish audit reports the moment they are discussed at the National Assembly.

“These are public documents, so nothing will change in that direction. We will sustain that transparency or even promote greater transparency because our vision is to enable effective transparency and accountability. We will continue our efforts to make our work transparent, and we will be following through on the gains that have been solidified in that direction. I can assure you that once reports are discussed at the National Assembly, they will be published online,” he said.

Mr Ceesay said as part of efforts to improve NAO’s effectiveness, an amendment bill has been tabled at the National Assembly to give the office greater autonomy and provide clarity on all its powers, including the power to surcharge.

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“The Amendment Bill also contains areas that would help the NAO remove itself from issues that have been legacy challenges, for example, the pre-audit of pensions, because it affects our independence. It will also provide clarity on the term limit of the board and the like,” he said.

 “You may even notice during the constitution review process that one of the recommendations was for the National Audit Office, Independent Electoral Commission, and Ombudsman to have operational autonomy and independence in the execution of their functions because they have a critical role that includes reviewing everybody, including the executive, judiciary, and the National Assembly,” he said.

Ceesay added that a lot of audit backlogs have been cleared, and currently they are editing the 2021–2022 government accounts.

“This is tremendous, and effective from March, we will be doing current year auditing. All this was achieved thanks to efforts by the NAO, Ministry of Finance, and Accountant General’s Office,” he revealed.

Technology

Ceesay said NAO has introduced a new audit technology.

“We can use the tool to computerise our audit programmes to reduce our dependency on manual or working papers. We now have systems that can be used to back up our documentation for easy reference and quality assurance because you now have a system that documents your audit process to allow for review,” he explained.

Challenges

Mr Ceesay said although his office has made “a lot of efforts to improve effectiveness, funding has been a constraint”, adding that NAO needs more resources to be able to build on its staff capacity to meet audit demands on time.

“The other challenge is access to records and personnel,” he added.

He commended the National Assembly for “taking a giant step towards ensuring accountability and making the work of NAO relevant”.

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