Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Iqbal Mahmood yesterday stressed the need for strong collaboration between the ACC and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) office to ensure accountability in public sectors to combat corruption.
The ACC boss said if the existing law did not allow the office of CAG to share information, it could do so using “informal channels”.
Iqbal came up with the remarks at the “South Asia accountability roundtable: promoting accountability and integrity in government spending” organised by the World Bank Group at a city hotel.
The ACC boss said, “When CAG officials conduct post audit and unearth any graft case, they can officially apprise or refer the case to the ACC, whereupon the ACC can take immediate action to investigate and prevent any corruption accordingly.”
He also said the CAG office and the ACC could explore the formation of a joint taskforce to work at both the pre and post phases of auditing certain corruption-prone departments and offices. This could them help take prompt action against any possible corrupt practices.
Iqbal said the CAG office and ACC could jointly undertake risk assessments in public procurement and public expenditure, preferably for mega projects.
He said the public perception was that corruption and irregularities were responsible for the increases in time and costs of different mega projects of the government.
About collaboration with Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Jatiya Sangsad, the ACC chief said it may refer issues of misappropriation of public funds to the corruption watchdog.
Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury, the comptroller and auditor general, said generally it takes at least two years to complete the full cycle of an audit report, starting from audit planning to submission to Parliament.
The PAC only gets a chance to scrutinise the audit report only after it is submitted.
“The time lag hinders the accountability processes. Because when the reports are discussed in the PAC, some of the executives who are supposed to be accountable for their actions might not be in their previous positions. In worst cases, many of them may retire from the service by this time. It makes the process of accountability less effective,” he said at the roundtable.
“Moreover, if any fraud or defalcation or any irregular payment is made in the government spending, the irregularity or loss might get irrecoverable due to the long reporting time. If we can introduce real-time auditing or at least in-year auditing, the issue of delayed audit report will be resolved.”
He said by introducing those, the entire process could be completed in a year in the near future.
At the roundtable, Speaker of Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said if PAC could work with the CAG office and line ministries oblige the PAC recommendations, corruption would reduce a considerable percentage, which in turn would minimise the ACC’s workload.
“For major irregularities, fraudulence and corruption or if necessary, CAG office and PAC refer the cases to the ACC which has the power of answerability and enforcement,” she added.
Rustum Ali Faraji, chief of the parliamentary standing committee on PAC, said, the main challenge PAC faced was mgetting the Accounts and Audit Reports on time.
He said fully-automated accounting and reporting system was of utmost necessity for getting audit reports on time.
Due to minimum information in audit reports, PAC sometimes faces problem with identifying proper witnesses in its first sitting on an audit report.
“Otherwise, the witness identification was not that much tough, but we faced problem with selecting witness due to transfer, promotion, retirement, of the government officials who are changed over time, and the absence of witness management guidebook for the private witness.”
Dandan Chen, acting country director, World Bank, Dadhe Sunil Shreekrishna, director general, CAG, India, Ed Olowo-Okere, governance global director, equitable growth, finance & Institutions, VP, World Bank Group, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, among others spoke at the programme.