Every year, the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) issues its annual reports and the Parliament deliberates on audit findings.

 However, the reports, which are tabled in the summer session of the Parliament are discussed only in the winter session,which by then becomes a year old or in other words stale. Quite often, by the time audit reports are discussed, most issues would be either resolved or dropped. Some people made accountable for the lapses would have resigned, transferred or even expired. 

What happened was that the parliamentarians were discussing stale issues. Fixing accountability following the audit reports has become  irrelevant.

The RAA tried to do it differently this year. To ensure audit reports remain relevant to the financial year, the reports were published in November to be tabled for the ongoing parliament session. The reports came seven months ahead of the former practice. It was a welcome change.

But members of parliament (MPs), who are familiar with the process of tabling the audit report, found a problem with the new procedure, reasoning it is not in line with the Audit Act 2018. Our MPs should be more worried of section 111 of the Act, which mandates audit to submit its report in the fourth quarter of the financial year and that they would be pondering over  stale or outdated issues. 

RAA issues its reports with the objective of improving the system. It plays an important role in ensuring public funds are used prudently. It also examines the efficiency and effectiveness of government undertakings or programmes.

In its annual audit report 2020-21, the authority highlighted irregularities amounting to Nu 4,002.4 million through its 121 reports.

Understanding the importance of transparency in our system, sources who had access to the reports shared it with the media when requested. Issues like the general reserve fund and the mounting debts are national concerns. The concern should not be about leaking audit reports to the media, but resolving the audit findings. 

Audit reports have to be made public, talked about and also taken seriously. Our MPs should actually demand for more timely reports to discuss and recommend timely interventions. The reports keep the legislature well informed about developments in the government.

After years of discourse to reduce lapses, shortfalls, mismanagement of public funds and wasteful expenditure, every annual audit report is pointing out the same issues. Our scarce resources are being wasted in the same manner every year.

Amending the Act is important, but keeping abreast with changes is necessary. As justified by the RAA, the reports are submitted ahead of the statutory requirement to provide timely inputs for decision-making and appropriate policy interventions. 

Recognising that a good amount of time is lost in amending laws, this should not be a onetime transitional arrangement but a normal practice. Audit reports help increase transparency and accountability by providing objective and reliable information on how public services perform. 

Our MPs should not discuss obsolete issues, but matters of urgency.

If ever there is an amendment needed, the provision that delays submission of audit reports should be amended. Afterall, what is the point in delaying reports to the highest legislative body or not revealing the contents of audit reports to the public.