Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has learnt that the Auditor General’s Department has a 35 per cent staff shortage which has severely hindered its work.
This information was revealed by assistant Auditor General Shiva Sinanan when members of the Auditor General’s Department appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo on Wednesday.
Sinanan told the committee there is a 35 per cent vacancy level, translating to about 80 auditors.
“We’re currently liaising with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) to get these vacancies filled. We’ve gotten, over the last two years, some vacancies filled in the professional and lower levels, so we’re working on it, but this is a problem we’ve been facing for quite a long time.
“The accommodation at the Waterfront Complex is quite okay but the vacancies situation is really critical that we need to address and it’s being addressed as we’ve gotten support from the Finance Ministry to fill vacancies at the professional/technical levels over the past two years.”
Sinanan said the vacancies are at the lower and technical levels in the auditing stream and at least nine professional level vacancies have been filled. He said lower level staff is much less than in previous years
He said the staff shortages have had an effect on the Department’s work as “at least 30 per cent of the work we could have done, couldn’t have been done in the last year. In terms of the scope of work, areas we wanted to look at, it was severely reduced.”
Sinanan agreed with Tancoo that vacancies for 80 auditors are substantial as the Division has to plan in advance to do audits.
“Everybody’s essential to get a job done . . . so when we have one or two people missing it really affects planning.”
He said the 35 per cent vacancy level is relatively new as there were 30 appointments at the lowest levels over the past two years and people had also retired. Contract employment is done once there’s funding.
Sinanan said the staff does whatever is necessary to get the job done to deliver Auditor General reports on time, including having higher level staff perform lower level functions. Tancoo and other PAC members commended the Department for doing a lot of work despite the constraints.
PAC member Jearlean John asked about cyberattacks and steps taken to ensure data accuracy. Sinanan said the department has an Information Technology (IT) section staffed by people who are qualified in IT auditing.
“They’ve checked several systems in the public service before and commented on them and they are qualified to determine if the system was hacked,” he said.
PAC member Adrian Leonce asked about fraud, illegal acts and corruption in the 2022 audit. Sinanan said the Department referred to such issues as “irregularities”.
“The 2022 report captures areas of irregularities, some of them fairly substantial. Across the board, in most ministries it’s not that prevalent. There are issues but sometimes we cannot pursue this since the documents aren’t provided, contracts not seen,” he explained.
“But that’s as far as we can go on disclaimers of opinion. We cannot say as the documents aren’t provided. But to say it’s a clean slate, I don’t think I brought that impression.”
Sinanan said when an irregularity is found, the Department takes it to higher authorities.