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Rescue Public Finances!

Curtains have dropped for the second Conference of the African Federation of Institutes of Internal Auditors that held in Yaounde last week.

As participants go back to their respective countries and structures, the theme of the Yaounde confab, “Auditing through ethical leadership; A solution for a Better Africa,” will certainly tick in their minds and why not haunt them.

Haunting them because of the place internal auditors have in safeguarding public finances and the sour reality in the continent. By their nature, an internal auditor is an employee of a company charged with providing independent and objective evaluations of the company’s financial and operational business activities, including its corporate governance. Even beyond this, an internal auditor also provides evaluations of operational efficiencies and usually reports to the highest levels of management on how to improve the overall structure and practices of the company.  

This sounds good in the ears and presents internal auditors as indispensable actors in the efficient and sustainable functioning of a company. Being part of the personnel of the company, an internal auditor is recruited and assigned by the boss of the structure. He/she is supposed to be independent and objective in evaluating the functioning of the company. This is for his/her good, especially good practices, the managerial cleanliness of the authority and the sustainability of the company. This would have been the ideal. However, the current situation in the continent is everything but this.

Repeated managerial lapses imputed on managers of companies, especially State-owned, lend credence to the fact that collaboration between managers and their internal auditors is far from being candid. Those that attempt to stay professional - providing independent and objective evaluations of the company’s financial and operational business activities are almost always treated as “enemies.” In fact, their relationships with the bosses are often lukewarm, with one considering the other as an enemy.

Achidi Sunday Judith, Vice President of the African Federation of Institutes of Internal Auditors summarised noticeable manager-auditor role as follows: “For us to do our mission, we need to be assigned by the general manager. If he doesn’t sign the mission order, we cannot work. So, if they don’t want us to control and see what is happening, they don’t sign our mission orders. Since they are the bosses, we sit without having any job to do.

At the end of the day they are the ones in trouble because we didn’t sign any document.” This may sound defeatist but more than that, the State pays dearly in huge amounts of money lost in the managerial lapses. This hard-earned money would have been saved in efficient, frank and professional collaboration of the two actors and either ploughed back into the company or redirected into other productive sectors of the economy.

If it is not the “enemy in the house” relationship that regrettably distances the two officials curiously destined by their callings to work hand in hand, it is then the “he who pays the piper dictates the tune” ties wherein complicity is the order of the day and the “boss is infallible” provided the two have all what it takes to satisfy their egocentric desires.  

The prejudice on the State is enormous. It came out of the Yaounde conference that the numerous cases of managerial lapses that the Supreme State Audit Office has so far published on managers of some State companies drained government of about FCFA 200 billion. This is unacceptable for the country that indebts herself almost every day to develop. There is an urgent need to rescue State finances going down the drain in evitable managerial lapses. Actors should also know that as the State gets a bad image in the malpractice, perpetrators themselves are not left out. It is time therefore to safe face and give good governance and national development a chance.  

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