Mass media about the Accounts Committee


John Bourn: Auditor should not be a politician

Dependent and non-transparent Accounts Committee will not be able to work effectively
On Accounts Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan invitation, the Head of the National Audit Office of the UK, Professor at the London School of Economics, Honorary Fellow of Brighton University, a Companion of the Institute of Management and a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, and at present an Honorary Professor of Eurasian National University of L.Gumilyov, Sir John Bourn visited our country. Interlocutor of the Liter correspondent shared his opinion concerning the government audit of execution of the republican budget.
- At present time in our Republic by the Head of the state order the bill “About the Accounts Committee” is worked out. What principles is it necessary to prescribe in it for effective functioning of the main audit institution in the country? 
- First of all, based on Britain experience, in the main dogma of the auditor it is necessary to prescribe his independence. The auditor should decide himself what objects he has to audit. Secondly, he should have the full access to information and sufficient funds which allow involving independent and professional staff. Moreover, auditors should have the right to publish audit information without any essential permission, at his will. His work should be open for all the citizens of the country. It means that any person can write a letter and send it by post or e-mail to the main auditor, who will pass it to the General Auditor. The latter should obligatory response to the person who made this request. In my opinion all these nuances are to be prescribed in the basic law of the auditor. But the main what I have to note is that the auditor is not politician. He doesn’t question the policy of the Government.
We always talk that we are worried about how the policy of the Cabinet Council is carried out. Our main mission is to control over effective management of financial flows, the struggle against corruption and fraud. The task of the auditor is to improve the state service and mechanism of money allocation of tax payers, to make them used more effective for the state and its people. In their work the auditors are objective and independent, their recommendations are effective, and the government should consider them.
- Together with the Chairman of the Accounts Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan you have signed the Agreement on cooperation. What is expected to undertake within this document?
- The signed Agreement will give an additional impulse to the cooperation between the Accounts Committee and National Audit Office. We have agreed about the constant exchange of methodical information on carrying out the government audit. Talking about the role of the National Audit Office in the UK, I don’t want to tell that it is the best audit model, but it is one of the effective. National Audit Office is the most developed organization satisfying the international standards. In our activity we are guiding the principles of Lima Declaration. Therefore we intend to cooperate with Kazakhstan in the area of professional education and training.
- What s of audit do you conduct in the UK?
- We conduct two s of audit: financial audit and value for money or performance audit the different services activity. Financial audit to a large extent concerns the audit of accounts and reports. We audit if the financial accountability is authentic and thus we are finding out what money of taxpayers was spent for. We have the access for any information and therefore we can identify the facts of corruption and fraud. In the value for money audit we involve the consultants from different areas: medics, teachers, psychologists, etc. Together we audit how efficiently the budgetary funds were spent.
- Kazakhstan administrators of the programs do not often use effectively the budget funds. What punishment is provided in your country for this delinquency?
– If for inefficient use of the budgetary funds people were taken in prison, no one would work. I don’t speak about the facts of corruption, cheat, fraud because this is another issue. In the UK if during the audit it is confirmed the fraud, cheat or other unfair activities, we involve police which conduct investigation. At the same time the facts of inefficient use of the funds has to be publicly observed. Taxpayers should know that roughly speaking their money is spent for anything you it. Only in such conditions public servants think about improvement of their work. In this issue the press should play great role.
- What are the most widespread financial violations in the UK?
– The most widespread violations are connected with the social responsibility. The system of tax payments from the wages has serious disadvantages. According to our data every eighth person pays wrong amount of taxes. Often people present false information concerning their social payments. The role of the audit is to reveal such conduct of people and give the recommendations to the appropriate subdivisions of the government for improving the financial management.
I think that any country of the world has the problems with the fraud and corruption and one of our functions is to make positive contribution in the struggle against these negative events. Often it happens so that money is lost not because of corruption but because of confusions, red tapes which people make.
– In Kazakhstan it is conducted parallel audits with different countries. Do you have such practice in the UK? Are you planning to conduct such audits with our country?
– Half the battle of success is the cooperation with the universities and international partners. Britain Parliament encourages the parallel audits. We had such audits which were signed by me and other Auditors General, with European Commission Organization on Fishery. We also worked with our colleagues from Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and other countries. Personally I’m ready for cooperation with new partners, not excluding Kazakhstan here.
– Does the Supreme Audit Institution of the UK have the deficiency of the staff? How the problem of involving the specialists is decided?
– The great attention in our work we give the people because we are sure that the prestige of every organization depends on qualitative work of its staff. Today 800 employees work in the National Audit Office, 200 – on contract. They are not the employees of the Government, but the employees of the Parliament. Every year we invite in our office 17-18 students of different specialties: economy, physics, literature and languages. They are only requested to have good knowledge, received in the universities on their specialties, as we need not only financial information. And what is it necessary for? For example, when we study the area of public health, we create the group of auditors and medics, because we need here not only accountants and auditors, but also physicians and surgeons. Such audits are more effective. With the help of economists the financial expenditures are calculated, the specialists of the other area estimate the benefit from these investments. Engineers, professors and even psychologists are important for our work. Thus the psychologists helped us to analyze how the forms worked out by the Government were understandable for completion by the citizens of the country. For example, the statement for license, for passport obtaining and hundreds of other forms. It has appeared that they were understandable only for 10% of people who had the higher education. The rest part of the citizens doesn’t know at all how to complete these forms. Therefore our program recommended the government to facilitate the forms and make them more understandable. In its turn this improved the information, received by the Government. And the citizens had more wish to complete such forms and they spoke less that this procedure is a red tape. They started to see that each form has additional information and therefore it has some benefit.

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