Say guests at South Asia Accountability Roundtable
Office of Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh (CAG ) and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) should work jointly under a new taskforce for ensuring better public fund management.
Discussants came up with the suggestion at South Asia Accountability Roundtable “Promoting Accountability and Integrity in Government Spending” organized by the World Bank Group at a Dhaka city hotel yesterday.
ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood said that effectiveness of audit got undermined due to the existing delay in submission of audited annual financial statements of public accounts.
“We should a form a joint taskforce with the CAG for more accurate audit," he added.
ACC Director General AKM Sohel said that the commission alone would not be able to eradicate corruption in the public fund management if other relevant agencies did not join hands.
“We need support from CAG, non-governmental organization in the relevant field and support from the media,” he said while talking in a panel discussion.
Stressing the need for further collaboration with ACC, Deputy CAG (Senior) Mohammad Zakir Hossain said that such move would improve the scenario rapidly.
“We produce audit report and place our findings to the parliamentary committee. If the ACC conducts further investigation based on our findings, the effectiveness of the audit report will increase,” he said.
Transparency Bangladesh International Program Manager Dipu Roy criticized quality of the audit reports by the CAG officials.
‘We have found that some of the audit official take bribes from the audited entity concerned. We have also come to know that 72.4% of the posts at the CAG office are vacant. This leads us to the question of efficiency and integrity of the agency involved,” she said.
Deputy CAG (Senior) Mohammad Zakir Hossain, however, disagreed with Dipu, saying that the allegation should be specific rather than a generalized one.
“But I admit we have some manpower shortage and we are working to resolve it,” he added.
Finance ministry Additional Secretary Habibur Rahman said the financial inclusion was increasing because of digitalization in public fund management.
‘The involvement of CAG is very important and it should take digitalization initiatives to cope up with the situation. This will also help to produce timely audit reports because as far as I know 2 years old audit reports are still pending,” he said.
Indian CAG Director General Dadhe Sunil Shreekrishna observed that increased public spending would not mean development if quality was lacking.
“The audit of public funds should be very harmonious and the objective should be to find out the impediments in the way of achieving the common goal. For example, if there is a health crisis, government spending goes up. A performance audit can show that sewerage and maintenance is not working properly. Once the problem is solved, the spending comes down,” he said.
He suggested adopting a holistic approach to auditing government spending, which would also increase accountability.
CAG Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury said the government had a plan to introduce real time audit within the next two years to resolve the backlog of audit reports.
“Besides, we should also include civil society and other relevant stakeholders to strength the CAG office activities," he said.
“Dependency on technology is rising day by day with the fourth industrial revolution. We should also prepare for that," he added.
Emphasizing collaboration among the CAG, the ACC and other entities for better auditing, Parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said audit officials needed more training.
Besides, the audit institutes should enhance their capacity, she added.
Shirin Sharmin suggested that the CAG open a separate unit to release backlog.
She also emphasized real time audit for effectiveness.