By Alexis R. Milan
The Auditor General, Dorothy Bradley has met with the Organization of American States (OAS) Commission to discuss the difficulties facing her office.
Bradley told The Reporter that she met last Thursday, April 24, with members from the OAS Mechanism for Follow-Up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (MESICIC). The discussion, according to Bradley, revolved primarily around the obstacles the Office of the Auditor General has and continues to encounter. Bradley said she re-iterated some of the concerns she has publicly aired before, including the issue of autonomy.
In the Auditor General’s last published report for the period April 2010 to March 2011, Bradley detailed many of the issues that the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) faces on a frequent basis and Bradley has maintained her position. That report cited that the International Organization for Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), the Lima and Mexico Declarations and the December 2011 United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution A/66/209, all strongly support the independence of SAIs. According to the April 2012 issue of the International Journal of government auditing, INTOSAI declared, “the task of an audit institution can only be objective and effective if it is independent of the audited entity and protected against outside influence.”
The report from the Auditor General also explained that in Belize, the Office of the Auditor General works on behalf of, and reports directly to, the National Assembly. It points out that the executive branch of government is responsible for supplying human and financial resources to the SAI. The executive branch, rather than the Legislature, approves the budget for the Office of the Auditor General. Hiring of staff is done through the Ministry of Public Service, without any input from the Auditor General’s Office.
Bradley explained that SAIs in other countries, operations such as staffing are done through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Audit Committee and this is done to ensure the credibility of the office’s operations and to maintain its independence. The 2011 report stated that, “Without control over its budget and human resources, the Office of the Auditor General of Belize does not have the means to be truly independent.”
Bradley maintains that her office has been isolated from its primary stakeholder, the PAC. This body plays a vital role in safeguarding the interest of legislatures in the expenditure of public funds by holding government accounting officers answerable to reports that the Auditor General submits. Bradley also maintains, that PAC’s inactivity and inefficiency, have deprived the Office of the Auditor General of its immediate channel for informing and reporting the results of its work. The report stated that due to this dilemma, the important work that they conduct does not have an effective pathway of accountability for departments and ministries to implement the recommendations that arise from the audits.
The delegation visited the country as part of its mandate to consult with oversight bodies responsible for preventing, detecting and punishing corruption. The commission gathered information from multiple oversight bodies to assess how these structures are functioning in accordance with the OAS Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (CAC). The results of the review will be included in the MESICIC report at their meeting in September where recommendations will be made. The MESICIC group also visited Jamaica and Haiti in April before conducting its on site-visit in Belize.
To date, 31 member countries of the OAS have signed and ratified the IACAC, which the OAS introduced and adopted in 1996. The Convention aims to eradicate the prevalent instances of corruption in the American States, including Belize. Belize ratified the IACAC on August 2nd 2002 and submitted its instrument of ratification, “The Belize Prevention of Corruption Act, 2007” to the OAS on September 6th, 2002. In addition, Belize signed the Declaration on the Mechanism for Follow-up, which allows the MESCIC to conduct on-site examinations of the mechanisms in place to fight corruption.