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Gov’t clarifies Barrow’s audit comments

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Following wide spread criticisms of President Barrow’s comments about audit reports, the Gambia government yesterday issued a statement to say that the president’s comments should not be misconstrued.

 The president told veteran broadcaster Malick Jones on Star TV that government cannot act on mere audit opinions because auditors can make mistakes or be biased.

The comment immediately drew sharp crictisms from the public, who said the comments undermine the government’s claim to be serious about fighting corruption.

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 But yesterday the office of the government spokesman issued the following statement: The statement by His Excellency, the President that “Auditors express various types of audit opinions on Financial Statements” should neither be misconstrued as Mr Barrow trivialising the important work of auditors nor diminishing their crucial contributions in defining and shaping accountability mechanisms in the Public Financial Management sphere. President Adama Barrow was merely describing the accountability procedure in a democratic dispensation, which obviously, requires that the audit mechanism be followed by rigorous investigative processes to confirm facts and key observations highlighted in audit findings.

Therefore, drawing conclusions based on the president’s interview that government is not adequately following up on allegations of financial mismanagement or misconduct is preposterous and without substance.

On the contrary, the Barrow government through the relevant institutions has amply demonstrated and continues to uphold the requisite political will to thoroughly investigate alleged transgressions and credible cases of suspected misappropriations or frauds highlighted in audit reports.

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The commitment to further strengthen accountability and oversight institutions is evident in government’s efforts to work with the Legislature in passing an Anti-Corruption Bill, a revised Public Finance Bill, a State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Bill and a National Audit Amendment Bill. It is envisaged that the amendments to the National Audit Office Act will strengthen the National Audit Office and enable it to fulfil its mandate as prescribed by the constitution, as well as strengthen the National Assembly’s control over public finances. To his credit, President Adama Barrow has always emphasised that government institutions investigate material audit findings per the law. Mr Barrow has made it categorically clear that where accounting officers in charge of ministries, departments, agencies or public corporations are found wanting by an audit report, they will be held accountable for their actions including full prosecution for any occurrence of fraud, embezzlement or malfeasance. Also, persons holding political or public office who connive or collude in the abuse, misuse or misappropriation of public funds contrary to the law and existing regulations, will be held accountable.”

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