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Norway to help Guyana sharpen audit skills for Natural Resource Fund-Auditor General

Guyana Times

Auditor General, Deodat Sharma

By Kiana Wilburg / Kaieteur News

GEORGETOWN 01 11 2019

With the passage of the landmark Natural Resource Fund Bill 2018, the Office of Auditor General, will be tasked with auditing Government's use of the Fund.

During his preparation for this new responsibility, Auditor General Deodat Sharma told Kaieteur News that he has been forging relationships with “the best of the best.”

The Auditor General said that Norway has been sharing key advice on this front with him.
He added that his Office has begun sharpening its skills for the oil sector, and in a sense, is already prepared for the audit of the Fund.

He said, “You have to bear in mind that this will be strictly a financial audit because it is about money coming into the fund. Let us say you get $300M in the Fund, then you have to audit and see how it was spent. That is a normal financial audit and we have been doing that…”

Even though his Office is familiar, to an extent, with what is required, Sharma said he is leaving nothing to chance hence steps were taken to contact Norway's Audit Office fo
r advice.

The Auditor General said, “I have been checking with the Audit Office of Norway in terms of how they audit their Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and other aspects and that is an ongoing process…So basically, we are contacting the best of the best. I went there (Norway) for a meeting but I reached out and interacted with the Audit Office myself on this matter…

In spite of international advice, Sharma said he does not foresee the need to hire any person or firm to assist his Office with the new responsibility. He said, “We do have some capacity issues but right now, I don't think there is a need for that.”


International agencies such as the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), is of the firm view that the appointment of Guyana's Audit Office as the External Auditor for the Fund is a wrong move.

The Fund made it clear that the Audit Office is subjected to applying for annual funding which is often subjected to cuts, thereby limiting its independence. Considering this and other factors, the Institute had called on the coalition administration to hire an internationally recognized and experienced auditing firm to be the External Auditor of the Natural Resource Fund.

NRGI stressed that this move would not be an abnormal one since nations such as Alaska, Chile, North Dakota, Norway, Texas , Timor-Leste and Wyoming each require that an independent external auditor that meets international standards audit their funds.

It suggested too, that financing for external audits could be part of the Fund's annual operating budget. The NRGI said that at this point, Guyana cannot afford to make mistakes or leave anything to chance. It suggested that given the circumstances, Guyana would be placing itself in the best position by appointing an international firm as the external auditor for the fund and not the nation's Audit Office.

During an interview with Kaieteur News on Sunday, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, said that NRGI would not be the first to make such a recommendation. He said that the Commonwealth Secretariat had suggested same. He noted however that the Secretariat was informed that the nation's Constitution does not allow for this. He stressed that the Constitution makes it clear that the Auditor General is to be the External Auditor of all public funds.

In addition to this, Jordan reminded that the Auditor General will have the financial support he needs, should he decide to hire the help of an international firm for auditing purposes.




Story from Kaieteur News / 01 11 2019

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