Audit Office defends outsourcing

The Audit Office has defended its move to increasingly outsource its auditing of Government entities' finances to the private sector.

 Terrence Su’a, the Office's Director of Communications, conceded that the organisation had increasingly been engaging private consultancies or accounting firms. 

But he said that the third parties could help to address a backlog of audit cases while ensuring that the scrutiny of the audits would be robust and of high quality. 

“The increase in [outsourcing to private sector companies] as you would have witnessed has contributed immensely to the update of annual accounts, audits and reports to Parliament," Mr. Su’a said, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer. 

"On the question of review, we do have strong robust quality control and quality assurance process in place as prescribed by our own requirements and international standards."

His comments were sought, after questions about the growing role of the private sector in auditing Government agencies was raised in Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee, during a hearing covering the 2019-2020 Financial Year. 

The Committee's report noted an increase in the budget of the Audit Office from $3.82 million to $3.91, a rise of some $90,933. 

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In the report, the Audit Office’s official response noted that their budget for the last financial year had included a request for quotations from 20 accounting companies who bid on projects to audit Government finances. 

Mr. Su’a said that outsourcing is not a new thing. 

“It was in the audit laws from the beginning," he said. 

"From [its] establishment and inception, the Office of the Controller and Auditor-General or the Audit Office, is made up of just the Controller and Auditor-General to protect and guard its independence.” 

He said legislation governing the Audit Office empowered the Controller and Auditor-General with the option to delegate their responsibilities when necessary. 

Mr. Su'a said that from 2010 this delegation of responsibilities and the engagement of audit consultancies had increased as the Office sought to address a substantial backlog of cases it had inherited. The outsourcing would also allow for the participation of members of the public in promoting Government accountability without compromising the Office's independence, he said. 

According to Mr. Su’a, the Controller and Auditor-General and an Internal Quality Assurance Group in the Audit Office is responsible for ensuring consistency in all audits undertaken. 

“Our external quality assurance is provided by our international partners including the New Zealand Audit Office under a twinning arrangement," he said. 

“I just want to touch on what I meant by quality, quality control, and quality assurance. Quality is the degree to which actions including the performance of an act or delivery of a product fulfill requirements. 

“It checks the actual production process to ensure that the quality requirements are satisfied. And quality assurance is a part of a process focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be or have been fulfilled."

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