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9th February 2024, 18:13

Principal Auditor says any attempt to dilute independence of Audit Office is 'Unconstitutional'

Published by GBC News

The Principal Auditor has expressed deep concern that the independence of his office has been disregarded and compromised by the executive government taking unilateral decisions about his financial and human resources.

In his 900-page report, Tony Sacramento said it’s “unconstitutional” for someone outside the audit ambit, to effectively have a say in the external public audit function.

The Principal Auditor describes correspondence with the Financial Secretary in September 2022, in which he said he was unhappy that - for a second year in a row - the financial and human resources available to the Principal Auditor had been “changed, reduced and restricted without any prior consultation” with him. And without due regard to the principal of independence of his constitutional office.

Tony Sacramento’s staff complement was reduced to 19 officers one year. And then the next when it was restored to 20, an audit grade “that can perform audit duties” had been replaced with an administrative assistant post “that cannot undertake audit duties”.

He said it was “completely outrageous” that the Minister for Economic Development Sir Joe Bossano had downgraded the grade and level of one of his staff. He said he must recruit professionally qualified accountants or auditors at Audit Clerk level, the professional basic entry level.

Mr Sacramento said a ‘Professional Fees’ subhead of expenditure - earmarked for performance audits and valued at £60k - was completely removed. He described the situation as “unacceptable” and “highly improper”.

The Principal Auditor said best practice would be for the Audit Office’s budget not to be negotiated with government officers, which it audits. He said the new Public Audit Law should secure a more modern and efficient public audit service.