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Adequate funding key to TAO independence says outgoing auditor

Lack of funding and the need for a legal counsel were just two of the impediments faced by the Territorial Audit Office in the last fiscal year, according to TAO’s FY 2012 performance report for the 4th quarter, covering the period of July 1 - Sept. 30, 2012.

The report was prepared and submitted to the Executive Branch by Territorial Auditor Robert Dantini before he officially resigned from the post on Dec. 20.

According to the report, TAO “would benefit from having legal counsel assist us in carrying out our mission. We have no such appropriation for representation or assistance.”

The report also states that independence is critical for government auditing to be effective and a “key ingredient to ensure independence is an adequate funding mechanism.”

“Per capita, TAO is the lowest funded audit office in the entire Pacific region,” it says, while also thanking the governor and the Fono for their support when it comes to funding “but we remain significantly underfunded.”

The report went on to say that part of TAO’s mission is to support enhancement of transparency and accountability and in this day and age, internet websites can provide the public with important information such as internal and external audits and lists of procurement opportunities to increase competition.

“Unfortunately, our efforts to work with the [Department of] Information Technology staff have been suspended pending resolution of funding and budget issues,” the report says.

“We believe enhancement of ASG’s website and migrating to ‘paperless’ electronic forms and business processors would only enhance transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

[IT Department had no funds in FY 2013 after the Fono moved the department to the Office of the Governor and then cut ITD’s funds from the annual budget. They were to be replaced under a supplemental budget, which was approved by the Fono, but rejected by the governor due to the funding source. ASG stimulus office also faced the identical dilemma with its funding for FY 2013.)

Perhaps the biggest problem or impediment faced by TAO during the 4th quarter and earlier, was the “lack of full and timely cooperation by audited departments, inability to directly access financial information and obtain financial records in a timely manner,” according to the report.

And finally, the report points out that in its FY 2013 budget, new funding is included for two additional audit trainee positions to be recruited from the local population in an attempt to increase local capacity.

The report strongly suggests that these two positions be filled in order for TAO to be effective as well as develop local audit capacity. “Reliance on external professionals to lead TAO is expensive and there is a risk that positions can’t be filled, which interrupts ongoing audit operations,” the report states.

See Samoa News edition on Dec. 20 for Dantini’s recommendations to the incoming administration of governor-elect Lolo Matalasi Moliga.