On March 31st, 2021, the National Audit Office launched its first Summarized Audit Report (Citizens Audit Report) to promote accessibility and to ease understanding of its annual reports on the accounts of the Government of The Gambia. This new strategy, which was jointly crafted in collaboration with Gambia Participates, among several other upcoming ones will help the National Audit Office publicize the findings in its reports in simple, and visualized language. It is also a step towards the NAO in achieving its strategic plan outputs. The first version was on the audit report on the 2016 financial statements of the accounts of the Government of The Gambia.
Since the commencement of the development of this strategy in 2020, Gambia Participates has been working with the National Audit Office to identify the best ways to simplify a document of over 250 pages with over 50 relevant findings into a short and succinct version that citizens can understand. The NAO has made a lot of efforts in eliminating audit Backlogs, which remains a big challenge for the institution. However, stakeholders have a pivotal role to contribute to promoting accountability and public finance management. In bridging the gap for audit report engagement, the Civil Society’s participation is of prime importance. Gambia Participates, in being a CSO with a particular interest in fiscal transparency in the public sector, has voluntarily popularized the findings of the Audit Report on the accounts of the government of The Gambia to spark citizens’ interest in the work of the NAO.
The 86 findings in the Summarized Audit Report of the 2016 Fiscal Year include the following:
- Missing documents: The Audit Report of 2016 Financial Year on the accounts of the government of The Gambia found that at least 17 PAYMENTS amounting to more than D72M were made without proper documentation.
- No contingency fund: In 2016, the NAO recommended that a budget line be created for emergencies. Until 2021, this recommendation has not been implemented even after the budget changes in 2020 due to COVID-19.
- Undisclosed bank accounts: The NAO reported that during the election period in 2016, there were unauthorized transfers to two undisclosed bank accounts named “security” and “mobilization” handled by Office of the President.
- Irregular procurement: The summarized report for 2016 unveiled a lack of transparency and unfair procurement processes for food items only, worth D21.5M.
- Unannounced budget changes: Re-routing of funds from one entity to another could affect the planned activities of that particular entity from which the fund was taken.
- Undisclosed sector grants: The summarized report for 2016 disclosed grants amounting up to D1.3B were disbursed to various entities, but were not accounted for during that year.
- Unsustainable debt: The Gambia’s debt is usually higher than its domestic revenue, which is not recommended by an internationally recognized benchmark for sustainability analysis, and it will haunt the country should they opt for obtaining loans in the future.
- Overall accounting errors: The summarized report for 2016 revealed that the government was not following financial regulations for reporting and other frameworks, which could involve irregularities and misstatements.
The 86 findings in the 2016 Citizen’s Audit Report has noted that 30 out of the 86 FINDINGS in the Auditor General’s report in 2016 involved irregular accounting and missing documentation.
As a reporting agency, the NAO faces numerous challenges throughout its audit process, which affects reporting: the publication of its reports for citizens and implementation of
recommendations by the audited government institutions.