Auditor General (AG), Sonia Webster, has suggested that her office is under no obligation to include feedback from relevant government ministries or departments when issuing her audit reports.
The AG gave that indication when she appeared before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) last week.
At the time, Webster was responding to criticisms by Premier Andrew Fahie about her reports being void of any kind of responses from the government.
“While we do invite comments back, there is no obligation to add the comments to our reports, and there is a reason why we don’t do it,” Webster told the COI.
“In the past, we would incorporate some of the comments [such as] ‘the Permanent Secretary said X, Y, and Z’. In the past, we did that. What we’ve been getting back is these long comments that were verbose that are only marginally relevant to the report,” she explained.
Webster was firm in insisting that there should be no expectation for what she deemed ‘irrelevant’ responses to be included in her report.
“If I issue a report that’s 30 pages long and get back a response that’s 70 pages long, and most of that isn’t relevant to what’s in the report and there is an expectation I would take that and add this to my report. That’s not going to happen,” Webster stated.
No evidence to support feedback
Webster further told the Commission that her office goes through a lot of meticulous processes to vet and to ensure that reports are relevant, concise and factual.
But she contended that the Audit Office sometimes gets comments that make statements suggesting different versions of events, but this often comes without evidence.
“If you can send me your comments and send me the evidence or point me to the evidence, that we can go and look at that and verify that is the case, then we are in a position where we can make an amendment to the report,” Webster stated.
According to the Auditor General: ”If I say that our records indicate or the records from the Ministry indicate that the file was blue and you come back and say, ‘No, in fact, it wasn’t blue, it was red,’ and there is no evidence that it was red, I am not going to change it in the report. I need some sort of evidence that I can go back to and verify. If I say there were a hundred farmers and you said, ‘No, in fact, there were a thousand“, I need evidence to show that that was the case.”
Former Education Minister Myron Walwyn was also among those who criticised one of the AG’s reports as being incomplete because it reportedly lacked any consideration of his Ministry’s response at the time in relation to an audit done on the Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) wall.
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