Audit discrepancies

THE discrepancies identified by our auditor-general in various government ministry accounts seem to be a continuing problem affecting our civil servants for many, many decades.

I believe some potential causes for such discrepancies could be;

1. Proper procedures not being followed;

2. Non-reconcilable items;

3. Pending inward and outward payments; and

4. Abuse of office and etc.

For a couple of years I worked as a commercial bank’s reconciler balancing tens of millions of dollars of transactions in different currency accounts to every single cent every month. I once traced and recovered some money that was missing for over eight years, which was authorised by the bank management to be written off. I was then awarded a Special Recognition Certificate for that.

The continuing discrepancies highlighted by the auditor general’s office seems to suggest in my opinion four potential solutions.

1. The whole government financial procedures including structures for reconciliations may need to be reviewed and reformed.

2. Include field working people, accounts clerk, junior accountants’ inputs in designing this reform. The procedure must not be too strict resulting in regular breaches that are justifiable practically and not too loose, resulting in constant abuses.

3. The whole accounts and finance team of every ministry must be properly trained and given exposure to various accounts sectors to enable them view their work as part of the whole process rather than confine their knowledge to individual tasks and components.

4. Have regular workshops and training for mid-level and senior civil servants on why it is important to carefully follow the reformed financial procedures and the repercussions if they fail.

5. I believe sometime both in Government and in the private sector, people high up the ladder design procedures from a “top-down approach” that sometimes do not synchronise with the practicality on the ground.

6. I believe contingency allocation must be allowed for such adjustments to avoid wastage of resources in investigating justifiable actions or differences.

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