Tan Sri Dato' Setia Haji Ambrin Buang
May 10, 2012 | By Zarina Abu Bakar
Accountability and Integrity are two of the most important qualities in any organisation but especially in the public sector where the stakeholder are millions of taxpayers and at stake is the country’s future. With the rakyat’s voice growing more strident over what they perceive to be negligent and fraudulent acts by public officials that result in billions of public funds being squandered, demands for accountability and integrity have grown to a clamour that cannot be ignored.
Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, the Auditor-General of Malaysia, agrees that there is “increasing public awareness, if not concern, regarding weaknesses in public sector financial management and service delivery by the country’s public servants”. This is why the Auditor-General’s report is “eagerly awaited by the public at large who are increasingly vocal about the perceived inaction by the relevant government agencies to rectify the weaknesses exposed by the AG”.
Tan Sri Ambrin was speaking at the 14th Perdana Discourse Series jointly organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation and UiTM. The theme of the Discourse was “Enhancing Accountability and Integrity in the Malaysian Public Sector – Are We Doing Enough?” and the event was attended by around 200 people, mostly students and academics.
In his 45-minute keynote address, Tan Sri Ambrin explained about the role and limitations of the Auditor-General’s Office (Jabatan Audit Negara or JAN). Auditing is conducted on a random sampling basis and it is impossible for JAN to cover every government agency and project. JAN has a staff size of 2,000 nationwide whereas the Malaysian public service is 1.4 million strong and managing billions of Ringgit.
At the federal level, JAN is the external auditor of 25 Ministries, 120 statutory bodies, and 110 departments and agencies, conducting attestation audits on financial statements, compliance audits on financial management and performance audits on government programmes, projects and activities. For financial statements, JAN covers the Federal Government accounts, 13 state accounts and the accounts of Federal and state statutory bodies like the EPF, Bank Negara Malaysia, Felda, Bank Simpanan Nasional, LTAT and Bank Kerjasama Rakyat.
It is thus important for external audits to be complemented by internal audits, and to be effective, Tan Sri Ambrin advised that the head of internal audit be of equal rank to divisional heads of ministries or agencies so that his views are given due respect. Of course, the value of internal audit will depend on the response by departmental and agency heads who, he stressed, need to take stern action against staff identified in internal audits.
The failure to take action is often the cause of widespread fraud or negligence. “In the past,” he said, “we observe that these heads are rather reluctant to penalise their staff out of sympathy or simply to protect the good image of their department or agency…how much action has been taken by those heads on the findings of their own internal audit? Not many that I know.”
Without swift action and leadership that sets a firm tone against fraud and corruption, the noble calls for accountability, integrity and transparency would remain mere lip service, Tan Sri Ambrin said.
To read the whole speech by Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, after the jump.
Continue Reading >>