Audit report reveals worst kept secret

After eight years of autocratic rule, Fiji finally has a Parliament which has received a backlog of reports from the Office of the Auditor General. Economist Professor Wadan Narsey studies the report and discusses its implications. There are certain principles which the owners of all organisations, private or public, expect from a sound audit whether in accounting or economics: The auditor (Auditor General) must be totally independent of the organization (Fiji Government) and be adequately resourced; The organisation managers (government ministries) must give the auditor every information that they ask for; The audit must clearly point out the major faults, as well as the remedies to the owners (the people of Fiji); The owners must be able to make the organisational changes that are necessary to eliminate the faults pointed out; The next audit must check to see if the faults pointed out the previous year have been rectified. These steps have unfortunately been compromised to a greater or lesser extent with the Auditor General Reports for Fiji, with lessons for all Pacific countries.

Audit collapse: The Auditor General Reports are detailed audits of government incomes, expenditures and borrowings, usually tabled annually in Parliament by the Minister of Finance, as a “report on the performance of the government” for the previous year. They are absolutely critical for all taxpayers to understand, given that government revenues and government expenditures account for around 25 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and total domestic incomes. These reports should tell the people whether the taxes that they have agreed to are being collected as the law states, loans borrowed responsibly as planned, and whether all the revenue is being spent the way that parliament approved or has been stated in the Annual Budget documents. Once tabled in parliament, the Auditor General Reports were also released to the media, and hence the public who could read and comment on whatever they liked. This is what used to take place since 1970 to 2006 – until Bainimarama (pictured) seized power through a coup in December 2006. For seven years, the Auditor General Reports have been prepared and submitted to the Bainimarama Cabinet.

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