Auditor General should have power to audit persons and companies, NAO proposes

National Audit Office proposes extension of its Constitutional functions to allow it to audit and report on persons or corporate bodies which receive public funds

The National Audit Office has presented to the President proposals for Constitutional changes related to its functions
The National Audit Office has presented to the President proposals for Constitutional changes related to its functions

The National Audit Office is proposing that is functions be extended to audit and report on any persons or corporate bodies which receive public funds, irrespective of whether they are government-controlled.

The NAO said that this would allow it to drill down to the level of the individual, institution or company which is receiving public funds. It is at present unable to look into how public funds are used at beneficiary level, with the Office highlighting that the inappropriate use of such public funds has an impact on economy, efficiency and effectiveness considerations, as well as raises compliance concerns in terms of adherence to funding agreements.

The facts that such funds might also come from the EU makes this proposed extension of the Office’s functions even more necessary, the NAO said.

The proposal was one of several contained in a report related to the NAO’s functions which the Office presented to the President on Friday.

The aim of the report is to identify and recommend potential changes to the Constitution in order to strengthen the NAO and make it more effective. It was submitted as part of the ongoing public consultation process for the reform of the Constitution.

Amongst the other proposals put forward, the NAO is suggesting that the Professional Secrecy Act, which restricts access to information, should not apply to information requested by the Auditor General.

Entities which do not provide requested information constitute “one of the issues hampering the Office’s ability to audit”, the NAO noted.

It moreover is proposing that the identity of persons who disclose information to the NAO be safeguarded, as a way of encouraging people to come forward.

Another proposal - meant to prevent a situation when the necessary two-thirds majority in Parliament isn’t reached in terms of who to appoint as a new Auditor General - is for the Auditor General and Deputy Auditor General to remain in office until the appointment of their successor in cases when both positions’ term of office lapse at the same time.

The NAO is moreover proposing that no civil or criminal proceedings be allowed to be instituted against the Auditor General or any of the Office’s officers in respect to acts related to the performance of their duties. This, the NAO said, would ensure he Auditor General “has the greatest freedom and latitude to express his opinions in his reports.”

Other proposals include a requirement for that the Auditor General be consulted before any changes to the law regulating the NAO be made, and that he be consulted before any additional responsibilties are added to his role.

“The proposed Constitutional amendments are deemed necessary in order to render the National Audit Office more effective in its address of emerging issues and challenges, as well as in view of the office’s role in contributing to good governance across the public sector,” the NAO said.

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