Checking Corruption in Government Spending

Experts, policymakers for tighter mechanisms

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:00, Nov 18,2019


Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury attends as chief guest the South Asia Accountability Roundtable organised by the World Bank at the InterContinental Hotel in Dhaka on Sunday. Comptroller and auditor general Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury, Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Iqbal Mahmood, Acting World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Dandan Chen, World Bank Group governance global director Ed Olowo-Okere and European Union Delegation head of cooperation Maurizio Cian were also present at the roundtable. — New Age photo

Experts and policymakers on Sunday recommended strengthening both legal and administrative mechanisms to ensure accountability, transparency and integrity in public spending and to prevent corruption and misappropriation of public resources.

The recommendations include formation of an evaluation committee to check overestimation of the cost of development projects, undertaking joint risk assessments in public procurement and public expenditures in mega projects by Anti-Corruption Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) and introduction of real-time auditing of government spending.

Accountability is the cornerstone of good financial governance and value for public money, they said at a roundtable on promoting accountability and integrity in government spending.

The World Bank organised the programme at the InterContinental Hotel in Dhaka.

Jatiya Sangsad speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury recommended formation of an evaluation committee to examine the cost of projects.

‘In addition to C&AG, Public Accounts Committee and other oversight mechanisms, there should be an evaluation committee that will examine the cost of projects to ensure it is not overestimated or inflated,’ she said while addressing as chief guest at the programme.

The project cost must be streamlined to avoid corruption, extravagance and misuse of public resources, she said.

She also advised the C&AG to form a separate unit to identify the important audit objections to reduce the backlogs as many of the audits had already lost its importance due to delay.

Introduction of real-time auditing is also important to make the PAC effective, she added.

Comptroller and Auditor General Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury said that there were about 8 lakh unsettled audit objections, most of which were pending for several decades, and that was one of the major challenges the C&AG was facing.

He also said that the time lag of an audit report for discussion in the parliamentary committee was also another inherent inefficiency of the system as it took at least two years to complete the full cycle of audit report starting from planning to submission in parliament.

So, lawmakers can introduce a legal mechanism to allow the C&AG to share the reports with other agencies including ACC, he said.

The time lag hinders the accountability process as executives who are supposed to be accountable for irregularities may transfer or even retire from job, he said.

Introduction of real-time auditing or at least completion of auditing in a year may solve the issue of delayed audit report, he added.

Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Iqbal Mahmood made a total of seven recommendations to enhance collaboration between ACC and C&AG for ensuring and enforcing of accountability in the public sector to combat corruption.

The recommendations include undertaking joint risk assessments in public expenditures in mega projects, mutual sharing of annual reports of ACC and C&AG, officially or unofficially providing information about corruption or attempts of corruption by public servants to ACC by auditors of C&AG and formation of joint task force between ACC and C&AG to work together at the phase of both pre- and post-audit of certain corruption-prone departments.

‘There are questions about the process of project management and financial governance as there are projects not implemented timely, costs are enhanced, stagnation in implementation of projects,’ he said.

People are also closely watching the issues, particularly the issues related to big and mega projects, he said.

‘C&AG and ACC can jointly undertake risk assessments in public procurement and public expenditures preferably in respect to big and mega projects to combat such mismanagement,’ he said.

Public Accounts Committee chairman Md Rustam Ali Farazi said that the main challenge of the committee was getting the accounts and audit reports timely.

Informative and comprehensive reporting along with compliance with the international standards are also necessary requisites for ensuring accountability and transparency in public spending, he said.

Acting World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Dandan Chen, Director General of Audit of India Dadhe Sunil Shreekrishna, World Bank Group governance global director Ed Olowo-Okere, European Union Delegation minister counsellor and head of cooperation Maurizio Cian and Financial Management Academy director Farmeen Mowla spoke at the programme, among  others.

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