Five years without a substantive Auditor General
Parliament has approved the Public Audit Amendment Bill whose principal object is to amend the Public Audit Act (Cap 37:01) to make better provisions for the appointment of an Auditor General.
Among others, the bill allows the holder to be a Malawian citizen in possession of a minimum qualification of a Master’s degree in Accounting, Finance or any relevant field; or an equivalent professional qualification, obtained from an institution accredited or recognized under the National Council for Higher Education Act;
Additionally, the occupant must be a member of a relevant professional Accountancy organisation and the Malawi Accountants Board; and must have at least 15 years post qualification auditing experience, five of which are at senior management level.
Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe said audits have been done up to the previous financial years but it’s the certification with the two previous audits that has been a problem due to the absence of a substantive Auditor General.
He admitted five years is a long time for the country to go without an Auditor General and is upbeat that if well remunerated, prospective candidates should be able to join the public sector.
The passing of the bill also allows government to conduct the recruitment process as the net has been cast wider.
“We should be able to get a good pool of people from which we can pick a substantive Auditor General and it’s good for governance financially going forward. The 2018 law required somebody to have a practicing certificate in order to qualify for the position of Auditor General.
“We’ve tried a number of times trying to attract people to apply; but to get somebody else from the private sector to join public sector under the same remuneration has proven a challenge and we thought we should work with the Malawi Accountants board internally and try to promote our people to do the exams and get a practicing certificate.
“But in the meantime, let’s just tighten the qualification by adding the numbers of experience and strengthening the requirement for a Master’s degree apart from the Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and also being a member of an accounting profession”.
Chikwawa North legislator Owen Chomanika stated that currently the law stipulates the need to hire someone with a practicing certificate, licence for the position.
In Malawi, there are few with 56 practicing people and when the position was advertised they did interviews but with the package offered, candidates don’t pick up the job hence the Bill extending to say that even those without a practicing licence can apply.
According to Chomanika, this is watering down the requirements, at the same time if someone has 15 years’ experience at a senior position, but does not have a practicing licence then there is a problem in executing the job.
He nonetheless supported the Bill noting that it is casting the net wider on who should be taken on board for the post.
“The position taken by Accountants Board and government is proper because they’re now opening up to say that even those that are in the civil service, can be licenced to be deemed to be practicing while in government because previously it was not very common; it was mostly private practicing but public practicing now because its opening now as the Minister said.
“I think that’s a better position taken, but in the in the interim we’re desperate. We’ve spent years without an Auditor General and those that are there are only acting so I think it’s a better position that we’ve taken to say let’s take out the practice maybe we can slot it as time goes” .
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Spokesperson Shadrac Namalomba spoke against politicisation of the office of the Auditor General
In the Tonse administration he noted that a number of public appointments are politicized citing the Department of Immigration and Malawi electoral Commission arguing that instead of opening the opportunities to Malawians, it’s been selective.
“It has been very difficult on the part of government to get that practicing person why? Because government remuneration was not that attractive to get that particular person. So we’re saying yes we’re going to lower down the qualifications but make sure that this opportunity should be available to each and every Malawian.
“In the past we’ve also noted people are being recalled from retirement, they retired, they hanged their boots now they’re being recalled. We’re also saying no let us give opportunity to those who are in the profession; those people that are not political, those people that can deliver.
“I also went on to say that we should not expect now that we should continue with this looting and corruption that is going on in government. This National audit office and this new Auditor General must ensure that this challenge is addressed. We need not to be exposed while we have a substantive person on that position” he said.