The Gambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (GICA), has expressed concern over President Adama Barrow’s claims that audit reports are opinions and that auditors can make mistakes or be biased.
In a statement obtained by The Standard, GICA said the president’s statement is not a reflection of the work of auditors and what the accounting term audit opinion represents.
“For clarification, an opinion is the end result of an independent, professionally planned, systematically conducted and executed audit programme. Audit takes place within a defined set of rules or laws and auditors are equally accountable to these laws and professional standards. Auditing of public accounts is governed by Sections 158 – 160 of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, which provides for the appointment of an Auditor General and the setting up of the National Audit Office,” the GICA said.
The institute added that independence of the auditor is crucial for the stakeholders who use the audit reports, for example financial institutions, tax authorities like the GRA, investors, multilateral donor agencies, World Bank, IMF, European Union who are major financiers to the government programmes, researchers and learning institutions etc.
“Bias is eliminated through enforcement of professional and technical standards to ensure assurance to all stakeholders and users of audit reports and sanctions are applied where bias is found including redress in the competent courts of law to those relying on the opinion of accountants and auditors,” it stated.
The institute disclosed that management letters are issued to give the management and directors of the auditees the opportunity to respond to all the issues raised before the audit is closed and an “opinion” given on the financial statements.
“If management and directors of entities do not accept the audit findings in the management letter, they have all opportunities to respond and present their facts and evidence to the auditors, who will then make a final judgement based on all the information available to them. It is important that the general public is informed of the important value of auditing services in the country’s economic and financial system, trading of shares, bonds, commodities and securities and providing crucial assurance services on which banks and investors and other stakeholders rely upon to make critical financial and investment decisions. It should be noted here that Gambia is not unique in this situation and developed financial markets trading in securities and commodities and moving billions of dollars, pounds sterling and euros, have great confidence in the accounting and auditing profession and are major stakeholders of auditing services and audit opinions.
“Auditors, like judges at all levels of the courts, doctors and other professions make judgements based on professional, ethical and technical standards derived from the evidence available to them. GICA would like to assure all the stakeholders that use audit reports – financial reports, investigative audit reports, compliance audit reports and special purpose audit reports, that the institute is mandated to ensure high standards of professionalism that eliminates all forms of bias, misrepresentation of facts and misinformation and ensure accountability,” the institute concluded.