THE auditor general was independent to carry out its special compliance audit.
This is according to his letter submitted to Parliament upon the completion of his special audit. The auditor’s report was read in the House last Wednesday.
The Speaker’s conclusion came after some Cabinet Ministers last week rejected the 12 page special compliance audit results.
Lord Fakafanua was making reference to page one of the report where the auditor thanked Parliament for acknowledging his independence role in the process. He then called on legislators to base their interpretation on the papers provided by the auditor.
His comments was prompted after the Deputy Prime Minister and most Government Ministers denied all the allegations made against the Prime Minister and six other Cabinet Ministers on the petition.
The Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Semisi Sika said the auditor’s report is wrong and all accusations against them are baseless and unfounded.
The Finance Minister Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa argued the scope of auditing was limited. This means only a compliance audit was implemented. No performance audit was provided. For this reason he maintained the special audit report was incomplete
The Trade Minister Dr. Tu’i Uata also asserted never for once the accused were consulted by the auditor general.
Hence, Lord Speaker pointed out that the auditor’s report is among the saddest report discussed in Parliament. It is because the Legislative Assembly requested an audit work on the petition and Government has denied and rejected its findings.
On June 25 the Speaker wrote a letter to the auditor general to consider looking into allegations made against some government ministerial portfolios.
It was no direction for immediate action on the matter. Rather it was totally up to the Attorney General to carry out his work freely and in an objective manner.
Government thought otherwise. They maintain the independence of the auditor was hampered. The Finance and National Planning Minister Hon. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa put forward the eight pillars defining the independence of Supreme Audit Institution (SAIs).
He stated that the auditor was directed to carry out the audit work. For this reason he argued that Parliament was interfering and hence his independence was jeopardized.
According to SAIs’ eight pillars independence requires integrity and an objective approach to the audit process.
The Hon. Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said the report should not have made public and for Parliament to maintain its independence and no interference in the auditing process.
He also argued a performance audit was not carried out because the scope of auditing was limited. Hence, Pohiva stated the auditor general was not independent in the process all because Parliament wants to tarnish the government’s reputation.
Vava’u 15 MP Sāmiu Vaipulu counter argued that the auditor’s independence was not compromised. He stated that the referral process involved was in compliance with the law. Therefore he was optimistic the independence of the auditor general was not compromised.
Prior to the discussion of the controversial report Dr. Uata was against the idea of it being read in Parliament. He argued this is to maintain Parliament’s integrity and auditor’s independence.
With the auditor’s report being labelled by government as incomplete, wrong and misleading the Lord Speaker said it is sad it has to be this way. Parliament in the first place asked the auditor for an audit work. Now it is sad that Parliament turned around and rejected its audit results.
Lord Fakafanua said it is up to Parliament to make the final decision whether to return or to reject it. But he also pointed out this is one of the saddest report discussed and got rejected at the same time.
The Speaker thanked the Auditor General for kindly accepting and accommodating the House’s request. He also felt sorry for the report and maintained it doesn’t matter whether it is approved or got rejected. However he reminded legislators even though it was a sensitive matter the auditor himself has clarified in his report of his independence.
Meanwhile ‘Eua Noble Representative Lord Nuku moved for returning of the auditor’s report as Government has rejected its findings.
He argued that auditor’s role is important because it is an independent body that can provide criticism and positive feedback to help government’s moving forward.
Tongatapu 3 Noble Representative Lord Tu’ivakano also reminded MPs of Parliament’s responsibility to address the issues raised in the petition. He said the Speaker must consult petitioners and letting know there are other means of dealing with the redress.
Parliament reconvenes today to discuss this pending matter.