By ANA VURU
The first meeting of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has been told that a few reports by the Auditor-General still have not been tabled in Parliament, despite an assurance by the Government that it will do this.
The comment has come from newly-elected Public Accounts Committee chair and National Federation Party leader Dr Biman Prasad.
Addressing the committee this morning, Dr Prasad said there should be concern that reports of audit of statutory organisations had not been made available to Parliament by the Auditor-General.
The Auditor-Generals Corporate Plan of 2012 talks about outputs and targets for 2012. The Plan specifically states that 15 audit reports will be issued to Cabinet in 2012 through the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, he said.
In accordance with the plan the only reports made available are: Report on audit of the whole of government accounts for 2011; and Reports on audits of ministries and departments under the General Administration Sector; Social Services Sector, Economic Services and Infrastructure Services Sector.
The following reports that the Auditor-General talked about in his Corporate Plan have not been tabled in Parliament: Audit Reports on government commercial companies, commercial statutory authorities, off-budget stage entities and majority owned entities Audit Reports on municipal councils; Audit Reports on provincial councils; Audit Reports on statutory authorities; Audit Reports on performance audits; and AAudit Report on IT (Informational Technology) Audit).
Dr Prasad said there was a need to seek clarification on the whereabouts of these reports and this clarification could only be provided by the Auditor-General.
Meanwhile, in welcoming the committee members, Dr Prasad said their task was extremely important.
We are now in the public spotlight. We will be scrutinised just as intensely as we do to the Auditor-Generals Reports of the past seven years, he said.
Extensive media coverage of the Auditor-Generals Reports of the past seven years reveal abuse of public funds and blatant disregard of fundamental financial procedures.
Pilferage, wastage and abuse of public funds have been highlighted. The Reports also highlight disregard of recommendations by the Auditor-General. This is causing disquiet among the people.
The job of this Committee would be a difficult one, but I am confident that we will be able to scrutinise all those reports and make appropriate recommendations to Parliament.
Dr Prasad noted that the committee, like other standing committees, was empowered to summon Heads of Ministries, Departments and public enterprises to appear before the committee to explain the lapses.
It is also empowered to summon ministers to provide information, documentation or evidence in cases of alleged irregularities in their respective ministries.
We have the powers of a High Court and we must exercise these powers to ensure the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency and good governance are maintained at all times by all those who are either custodians or tasked with the disbursement of public funds. We should not hesitate to refer cases of fraud, abuse of office and mismanagement to the appropriate authorities to deal with, Dr Prasad said.
I also understand that the last Public Accounts Committee scrutinised some reports. That committee had prepared reports for the 2007 and 208 audit and also done some work on the 2009 Report. I believe the secretariat is making available those reports to us.
Dr Prasad took time to thank Auditor-General Tevita Bolanivanua and his predecessor Eroni Vatuloka for their comprehensive reports prepared under difficult circumstances.
It is our job to ensure that their work does not become an exercise in futility. And our task will become easier if we achieve consensus and unanimity so that we can collectively overcome the challenges before us, he told members of the committee.