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UWI professor tells auditors: Corruption, bribery now the norm
There is a need to strengthen internal auditing processes to ensure better transparency and accountability, Professor Rhoda Reddock deputy principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said yesterday when she addressed the opening ceremony of the ninth Congress of Caribbean Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (CAROSAI) at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.
“With changes to legislation in T&T and other Caribbean territories, there has been an increased interest in and attention to the audit process, thanks to institutions such as CAROSAI,” she told the audience which included Secretary General of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Dr Josef Moser and auditor generals from throughout the region. Reddock said every day there are reports of public and private institutions falling short because of lack of oversight and internal checks and balances. She said auditors perform their task in a world where corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion are fast becoming the norm.
In addition, she said, reports of tragedies, which persist because of failing economies, tend to focus on the fact that through undetected fraudulent activity or weak internal controls, millions of dollars are lost. Reddock said the Caribbean is not immune to these global effects. She referred to the Transparency International 2012 Corruption Perception Index in which two-thirds of 176 countries scored below 50 on a scale of 0-100, which meant they are considered significantly corrupt. T&T was at 80 and Jamaica, 83. “Therefore, within the wider society, lay persons have become increasingly aware of the need for accountability from big businesses, financial institutions and governments whose resources are indeed the people's resources,” she said.
Reddock said with the global economic downturn, there has been a shift in focus to the role and significance of internal auditors and the urgent need for efficient and effective corporate governance, risk management and compliance systems across boards and organisations. Based on various definitions, she explained, an internal auditor is independent, objective and challenges current practice within the organisation and must therefore be allowed to be independent within the organisation where he/she operates. “We should ask ourself in the region whether we have allowed our internal auditors to be truly independent granted that they are employees of management and are dependent on management for raises and promotions, just like other staff members,” she said.
Reddock said internal auditors and the internal auditing process may lack public trust and confidence if overt measures to protect their independence are not implemented and maintained. She explained: “Internal auditors should be able to report to higher management without fear of victimisation.” Reddock said internal auditors need to feel empowered as they are key to effective corporate governance and education is the main tool for empowerment. Following the opening ceremony, auditor general of T&T Sharman Ottley said there are measures in place to strengthen the institution. She said: “The auditor general department of T&T is undergoing an institutional strengthening exercise which will improve the audit function and it is hoped with the improvement there will be more a robust auditing system.”
Ottley said there is a programme to implement international best practices for supreme audit institutions in the region. The congress, which ends on Thursday, is part of the CAROSAI’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The theme is Collaborating to Promote Best Audit Practice. At the end of the four-day congress Ottley will assume chairmanship of the organisation.
CAROSAI’s 22-member body was established on August 7, 1988.
Heads and delegates from the 18 regional supreme audit institutions, as well as delegates from New Zealand and United Kingdom, were at the opening.
The four day congress will address a wide range of issues, including greater government support and capacity building to further strengthen CAROSAI.
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