Federal auditor demands better compliance

The head of the State Audit Institute wants to be given new ways to force government bodies to take its advice on budgets and the misuse of funds.

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DUBAI // The head of the federal State Audit Institute has called for it to be given new ways of forcing government bodies to take its advice on budgets and the misuse of funds.

Dr Harib Saeed Al Amimi, the president of the institution, said there was no mechanism to force the country's dozens of ministries and other government bodies to respond to the auditors' remarks.

The institute oversees the use of public funds in about 70 entities, including ministries, government corporations, the Federal National Council and any other body the Supreme Council tells it to audit.

But all does not always go smoothly. "Sometimes the entities do not reply to the audit institute," Dr Al Amimi said yesterday on the sidelines of a workshop for FNC members. "Supervision is not something wanted, of course a lot of people do not like it."

When organisations do not respond within 30 days, the institute has little choice but to record any problems or wrongdoing in its final report, which is then presented to the FNC.

"We work extensively with the entities before the issues are raised to the council," Dr Al Amimi said. "For the institute to issue a final report it means that we could not come with an agreement with the entity and found no suitable solution from them. A lot of entities do not respond positively to the solutions of the bureau."

The answer, he said, would be for the FNC to be given the power to set entities a deadline to fix problems identified by the institute.

"In cooperation with the Supreme Council, the FNC can make these entities cooperate more and empower the Audit Institute," he said. "No doubt that the relations between the institute and the council is special to what ties us in a common goal of government duty."

One FNC member noted, however, that the institute was not blameless on the question of missed deadlines. It often took a year or more to send reports - far beyond the constitutional limit of four months after the end of the fiscal year .

Ali Jassim (Umm Al Qaiwain), who has been a member of the FNC since 1993, said the constitution was clear about the time frame for audit institute reports. "But this does not happen. The problem here is that it comes late."

He said the institute often blamed the entities it was reporting on, saying they had failed to give a timely response to its findings.

"But this is the institute's responsibility," Mr Jassim noted. "The council also needs to see the report and study it thoroughly. We too need time with the reports."

As it was, he said, fiscal years came and went without the council being able to assess departments. "We then would fall behind," he said.

He said the institute's criticism of departments often centred on programmes that had not been implemented despite being budgeted for, in areas including education, health, services and infrastructure.

"This sum of money is then considered as excess funds," he said. "This usually happens due to entities' slowness in projects, in research or in plans. So all this goes back to the Ministry of Finance."

Sometimes departments add the excess on to their budget for the next year, giving them an apparent surplus that is supposed to be used for completing pending projects but often is not.

"The FNC should be able to monitor the ministries' budgets and programmes in a bigger way," he said. "The reports coming on time would help in this."

The Audit Institute has not presented any reports to the FNC since the chapter started in November.