By Muhammed Sailu Bah
In presenting the draft bill before the law makers, Abdou Kolley, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, said it seeks to streamline the activities of the National Audit office (NAO) in line with the aspirations of the Constitution to enable the audit of all public institutions and also to perform value for money audits at the National Assembly Chambers.
The Finance Minister said the value for money goes beyond checking for accuracy and audit compliance but also cover job performance and efficient uses of resources.
“The bill aims to strengthen the independence of the NAO in order to fulfil its constitutional mandate and support the National Assembly carry out its control and oversight functions of public finance. To do this, the bill seeks to eliminate the ‘Audit’ part (Part III) of the Finance and Audit act and establish the National Audit office as supreme audit institution of the Gambia,” said the finance and economic affairs minister.
Minister Kolley urged law makers to move the bill for it to be an act of parliament in order to strengthen the NAO Office by establishing its governing board and defining the status and mandate of the Auditor General to promote efficiency and accountability in the use of public resources and for connected matters.
He described the NAO as among key stakeholders implementing public financial management functions of government.
The finance and economic affairs minister told deputies that the NAO has a wide ranging oversight function as envisaged in the 1997 constitution of the Republic of the Gambia as well as Finance and Audit Act.
Minister Kolley revealed that the bill establishes the National Audit Office Board to be the governing body of the NAO consisting of the Auditor General who shall be the Chairperson of the Board.
“This is in line with the current international best practice in auditing. The functions of the Board are prescribed in the bill such as to issue budgetary guidelines and directives for preparation of the annual estimates of the NAO; review the financial estimates of the NAO before submission to the National Assembly among many other functions,” he further said.
In conclusion, the finance and economic affairs minister told the deputies that once the bill is enacted, it will not only strengthen the National Assembly’s control over public resources but also enable the NAO fulfil its mandate under the Constitution.
“On this note, Honourable speaker, I beg to move,” he said.
The Minority Leader Hon. Samba Jallow questions the independence of the Auditor General if he/she can be dismissed by the President and he further suggested for the tenure of office of the Auditor General to be made10 years rather than 9 years.
In his contribution, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Majority Leader, said the independence of the Auditor General is clearly stipulated in the bill, adding that the President cannot dismiss the Auditor General without consultation with the relevant authorities as indicated in the bill. Citing a part of the bill, Hon. Tombong Jatta said “The President may remove the Auditor General from office under (A) subsection (4) (Inability to perform the functions of his/or her office arising from infirmity of mind or body or from any other cause) following a report submitted by a properly constituted medical board.”
Responding to the concerns raised, the finance and economic affairs minister said the 9 years tenure of the Auditor General is good for it to be like that because they do not want it to have any political linkage when it comes to term issues.
The other National Assembly members who spoke included Alhagie Sillah of Banjul North, Babou Gaye Sonko, a nominated member, and Seedy Njie, among others.