Mr Deodat Sharma may not be a proper Auditor General but he surely knows how to play the political game. Last week, the Audit Office which he heads hosted a team of two from the Audit Office of Newfoundland and Labrador (AONL) with which the Guyana Audit Office claims a “twinning partnership.” The website of the AONL indicates no such partnership.
I understand from persons who attended a workshop conducted by the two visitors from Canada that one of them actually sought to advance the case for the confirmation of Mr Sharma who for seven years could not be substantively appointed because of lack of qualifications.
Mr Sharma’s lack of qualifications would likely prevent him from being appointed Audit Manager, much less Audit Principal or Auditor General, in the Newfoundland Audit Office.
In my view, the attempt by the Canadian gentleman was insulting, inappropriate and tantamount to improper interference in the operations of Guyana’s national financial watchdog which no Canadian Audit Office would accept and tolerate for itself.
Here are some interesting statistics. The Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador is appointed for a 10 year non-renewable term by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council and confirmed by a resolution of the House of Assembly. (Term limit for Auditors General is a common feature in other countries as well, but not in Guyana.) The Newfoundland Office has less than a quarter of the staff of the Guyana Audit Office – 36 compared with 150 – but while 28 of their staff hold professional accounting designations (78%) only 2 or 3 persons (1.33% or 2%) in the Guyana Audit Office are similarly qualified.
In its work, the Office of the Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador complies with the professional and ethical standards established by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. And according to that Audit Office, they adhere to professional codes of ethics and independence standards; exhibit independence in fact and in appearance; and avoid perceived and real conflicts of interest. In Guyana we aspire to and apply low or no standards.
I do not for one moment however believe that it is only because of lack of qualifications throughout the Guyana Audit Office that it has failed so miserably in unearthing the kind of frauds which the reporters from Kaieteur News and to a lesser extent, the Stabroek News, have been uncovering.
Rather, it is because some of those who hold senior positions cannot afford to jeopardise their position or embarrass the Minister of Finance and the government.