Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI) is extremely concerned at the recent promotion of Mrs.Gitanjali Singh, the wife of Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, to the office of Audit Director within the Office of the Auditor General (OAG). The OAG is a public office created by the constitution and is mandated to uphold and preserve the highest standards of independence and integrity in the discharge of its constitutional functions. As a result of this appointment, a critical role in the oversight of the financial statements of the country has been entrusted to the wife of the Minister responsible for preparing them. The auditing process by definition requires insulation from the subject of the audit, a consideration which has been completely ignored by this incestuous appointment, which is in turn likely to undermine the effective performance and operation of the OAG.
TIGI is of the view that a serious conflict of interest has arisen both in professional terms and in the eyes of the public. Both the Minister of Finance and his wife are bound by standards of professional conduct laid down by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana, to which they belong. A central rule of professional conduct mandated by these bodies relates to conflict of interest. TIGI is of the view that the retention of Mrs. Singh as Audit Director is likely to adversely affect the credibility of the OAG and will undermine public confidence in such an important independent office created by the constitution – the supreme law of Guyana.
TIGI therefore calls on the President (who appoints the AG), the AG himself, and the Public Accounts Committee (which has supervisory authority over the OAG in relation to the appointment of senior officers) to remedy this situation in order to ensure good governance, greater transparency and enhanced accountability. TIGI wishes to note further that acting appointments are inimical to the independent and fearless performance of their functions by public officers, and so as to remedy another deficiency in the OAG also calls on the President to take appropriate measures to appoint substantively an Auditor General after due consultations with key stakeholders
The people of Guyana are entitled to expect that the OAG and, indeed, all public institutions to operate in accordance with the highest standards of professional and personal ethics. Moreover, promotions and appointments to public office should eschew nepotism and/or the perception of nepotism. In keeping with these legitimate expectations TIGI wishes to advise Mrs. Singh of the possibility of taking the honourable and moral course of action by declining this appointment.
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Gino Peter Persaud LL.M, Attorney-at-Law & President
Transparency Institute Guyana Inc