Disputed Auditor General report laid in Parliament

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Disputed Auditor General report laid in Parliament

The much-disputed Auditor General’s report on T&T’s 2023 accounts was laid in parliament on Friday.

During his presentation of the report, Finance Minister Colm Imbert dismissed as false, claims that the ministry “backdated” accounts.

However, Imbert revealed that Auditor General Jaiwantee Ramdass has expressed a willingness to do a special report on the accounts for 2023—based on amended records—to clarify her initial report.
This is expected by August 31, the extended date for reporting on the 2023 accounts.

When the Auditor General’s report was first presented to Parliament on April 26, Imbert refused to lay it. This was due to the Auditor General’s failure to include in the accounts, information on $2.6 billion in revenue which was discovered by the Finance division in February to have been understated due to an issue with the Central Bank’s electronic chequeing system.

Imbert, speaking in the House yesterday, said he was advised by senior counsel that Ramdass’ refusal to receive/consider the amended accounts prior to April 16 was unlawful and irrational.

“Because it constituted a failure to fulfil her duties under section 116 of the Constitution and section 9 of the Act, and it was irrational because it was inexplicable the Auditor General would refuse to consider such amended accounts in the course of executing her duties to examine/audit the public accounts,” he said.

“The Auditor General’s allegation that the ministry ‘simply backdated the original accounts’ and attempted by way of ‘administrative sleight of hand to sweep under the rug the fact that an error had occurred and the ministry had not sought the reasonable extension of time from Parliament to rectify same’, and other such allegations in similar vein, are patently false.”

Imbert said both the original public accounts and the amended accounts include certain certificates signed by ministry representatives that make declarations and certify certain matters regarding one or more of the accounts/statements that comprise the accounts.

“The dates on which those certificates have been signed are endorsed on the certificate. Apart from those dates, neither the original accounts nor the amended accounts state or indicate the date on which they were prepared. These accounts represent T&T’s financial position at September 30th, 2023, irrespective of the date on which they were prepared or certified.”

All accounts included in the amended accounts, which contained amendments made after they were originally submitted to the Auditor General as part of the original Treasury statements, were certified in the amended accounts via certificates dated April 16th or 15th, he said.

Imbert added, “None of the accounts included in the amended accounts which contained amendments made after they were originally submitted to the Auditor General on 31st January 2024, as part of the original Treasury statements, were certified in the amended accounts by way of certificates dated 31st January 2024.

“In the circumstances, the amended accounts correctly identified the date or dates on which the accounts comprised therein were certified. Thus, any suggestion that the amended accounts were backdated in some way is inexplicably false.”

Imbert said it was incorrect that the ministry simply “replaced the old revenue figure with the new one…without showing any amendment to the national accounts”.

Further, Imbert said the same day the Auditor General submitted her report to Parliament’s Presiding Officers, she’d delivered to the ministry a management letter dated April 23, 2024, which included identifying certain errors in the accounts, requesting certain explanations and inviting ministry comments on the findings, observations, and recommendations.

“It’s, therefore, unfortunate the ministry wasn’t afforded the opportunity of responding to the letter before the report was submitted,” he added.