The Financial Express

'Real-time' audit by CAG can help check fiscal anomalies

Experts tell WB roundtable

| Updated: November 20, 2019 10:31:25

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'Real-time' audit by CAG can help check fiscal anomalies

Collaboration among accountability organisations, including Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), parliamentary committees and civil society organisations, can ensure transparent and effective public spending.

Experts said this at a roundtable styled 'South Asia Accountability Roundtable: Promoting Accountability and Integrity in Government Spending', organised by the World Bank (WB) at a city hotel on Sunday.

They also said introduction of real-time audit would help reduce financial irregularities significantly, as it is possible to check wrongdoings even before they take place.

Sharing public spending information with other accountability entities will enable all to work together to curb corruption and bring the best results from public expenditure, they added.

Speaking as the chief guest, Jatiya Sangsad (JS) Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said promoting accountability and integrity in the government agencies with regard to the use of full potential of public money is at the heart of a functioning democracy.

She said training and capacity building of all the key actors in public financial management will help build a strong collaboration among the accountability institutions.

Regular interactions among all actors will also enable them to discharge their function effectively, she said.

The JS speaker said parliament is ready to provide legislative assistance, including amendment of existing laws, for any collaborative efforts.

She said CAG office may have a separate division to deal with backlog audit of public spending.

Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury expressed the hope that CAG will be able to introduce real-time audit in the next two years.

He said electronic payment system has radically changed the way the public spending is done.

"Now CAG needs real-time audit to track the irregularities," he said.

Currently, CAG has 8,00,000 cases pending since independence, he added.

"We are now re-categorising pending cases to dispose them of gradually," he said.

World Bank Acting Country Director Dandan Chen said CAG, ACC, civil society organisations and academia require to work together to bring about transparency in public spending.

She said concerted efforts by main players are the key to success in ensuring accountability in government spending.

Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Iqbal Mahmood said there is a question among people about the financial governance and accountability in respect of big projects of the country.

"These projects are being revised and the project cost enhanced. There is a question about financial governance in these projects," he said. The ACC chief suggested undertaking risk assessments in public procurement and public expenditures jointly with the CAG, preferably in the case of big and mega projects.

He also proposed forming a joint taskforce with the supreme audit institution to work together during both pre- and post-auditing phases of certain corruption-prone institutions and offices and take a prompt action against any possible corrupt practice.

He said CAG can tip off ACC informally if they find any corrupt practices in any offices for taking prompt action and thus prevent irregularities.

Parliamentary committee of public accounts (PAC) Chairman Rustam Ali Farazi said irregularities in public spending can be prevented in time if they get audit reports timely.

But, he said, timeline is a big problem due to many constraints facing the CAG.

He also said CAG needs to have adequate manpower, research assistance and enough funds to comply with the international audit standards.

Fully automated accounting and reporting system is needed to get audit report in time, he added.

Governance Global Director Equitable Growth of Finance and Institutions Vice President at World Bank Group Ed Olowo-Okere, Director General of CAG India Dadhe Sunil Shreekrishna, Minister Counsellor and Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation Maurizio Cian also spoke at the event.

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