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Parliament moves in to make Auditor General independent

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Parliament on Tuesday made moves to have the office of the Auditor General independent but Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe asked for a meeting with legislators outside Parliament, saying he had misgivings with some of the recommendations.

But Alekeni Menyani, Chairperson of Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, who proposed amendments to the Public Audit Act on Tuesday in the House, refused to meet the government team led by Gondwe after the minister said they would meet selected members of the joint Public Accounts, Budget and Finance and Legal Affairs committees.

“As members of the House, we should always be concerned about the cost; I suggest we meet five members from each committee and the consultants who did the report,” Gondwe said.

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Menyani said the amendments to the Act would ensure that the office of the Auditor General has necessary tools not only to check how public funds are spent, but also report the findings without any fear.

“The joint committee also agreed that absolute independence is not attainable, but we recognised that sufficient independence to allow the Auditor General to perform to our satisfaction is possible,” Menyani said.

Menyani said it was a contradiction that the Auditor General is appointed by the President and confirmed by the National Assembly, yet he reports to the Executive arm of the government, which presents his findings to Parliament through the Minister of Finance.

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He, therefore, said the office needed to be independent if it is to undertake its duties objectively and effectively.

“Much as it is difficult for the Office of the Auditor General to have absolute independence from the government, the law should, as much as possible, be used as a tool to protect the office of the Auditor General from any kind of influence in discharging its duties,” Menyani said.

He further said the committee observed that the National Audit Office was not a fully fledged institution as was the case with other government institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Malawi Human Rights Commission.

He said the committee agreed that institutional independence also hinges on reporting mechanisms, saying the Constitution states that the Auditor General submits his reports to the National Assembly through the Minister of Finance.

Menyani also said Malawi follows parliamentary type of public audit, saying this model, dubbed Westminster System, requires the Auditor General to report directly to Parliament.

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