Fiji Time: 8:48 PM on Saturday 25 October

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Why figures matter

Fred Wesley
Saturday, October 25, 2014

THE important role of the Auditor-General becomes very clear when issues that are sure to raise eyebrows pop up.

For instance as we reported in yesterday's edition, a senior assistant health inspector in 2007 received full pay for a four-year period while on unsanctioned study leave.

It was part of the findings of the 2007 Auditor-General's report which was tabled in Parliament last week.

The report said the total money that the officer received amounted to $65,555.86 over the four years. It suggests the responsible officer should be surcharged for failure to report the issue.

It said a senior assistant health inspector had requested for study leave with pay for four years effective from 2003 to 2007.

The National Training Committee at its meeting on 14/8/03 had granted "study leave without pay" to the officer.

The report said, the officer, however, went to study on her own accord without obtaining authority for study leave overseas from the ministry and PSC.

It said the salary section was not informed about the unauthorised absence and as a result the salary was overpaid. The health management has reportedly responded to the issue highlighted by the Auditor-General, saying "the disciplinary committee would decide on the recommendation to surcharge and discipline the supervisor, as the woman resigned".

The case is now before the disciplinary committee.

Such issues reaffirm the importance of the Auditor-General's role. Clearly the Auditor-General's reports will attract a lot of attention. There has been a lot of interest hovering over them.

The issue received wide publicity pre-election, got mileage during the pre-polling, on national polling day and post-election.

The Auditor-General is expected to provide independent assessment on how services and funds have been managed. The reports allow us to gauge how we have spent over the years, and how we can pick out areas to improve on with a view to bettering service delivery in the future. As we look forward to the scrutiny of the latest reports, there is an air of expectation.

The process we have moved into is obviously an encouraging one.

The designated head of the Public Accounts Committee Professor Biman Prasad has made it clear they will not be out looking for faults, in a manner of speaking, they are not on a witchhunt.

It is not about finding faults in the Government, he said. The aim is to scrutinise the reports for "good governance". There is a clear demarcation line which actually adds confidence to the process and will no doubt raise Professor Prasad's profile.

Given the fact that Government will continue to spend annually for various reasons, there must always be checks and balances. On the other side of the divide, there must also be a proper system in place to ensure those scrutinising the reports are above board and obviously the right fit for the job.

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