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Auditor General pips Ronnie Thwaites for Person of the Year

Ken Chaplin

Tuesday, January 01, 2013    

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IF any government agency believes that it can run around Pamela Dawn Marie Monroe Ellis, Jamaica’s Auditor General, because she is a woman, forget it. Strong and efficient, she runs a tight outfit and she is apparently untouchable. One permanent secretary who knows Monroe Ellis well describes her as indomitable, but he thinks that she is a bit too aggressive at times.

The Auditor General’s Department (AGD) is tasked with the responsibility to ensure good fiscal order and probity in government. In the present culture of corruption in Jamaica that is a tough job.

Essentially, the Auditor General is required by the Jamaican Constitution and the Financial Administration and Audit Act to conduct audits at least once per year of the accounts, financial transactions, operations and financial statements of central government ministries and departments, local government agencies, certain other statutory bodies, and several other government companies.

In carrying out her duties, the Auditor General evaluates the efficiency, economy, legality and effectiveness with which central and local government agencies and other public bodies carry out their financial management programme responsibilities. In exercising her duties the Constitution provides that the Auditor General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority.

In the Auditor General's reports to Parliament last year, Monroe Ellis not only identified a number of entities whose aspects of their financial operations were found wanting, but also made sweeping recommendations for improvement. Of course, improved operations make the job of the AGD less problematic. For example, recently she urged the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) to identify and implement an appropriate information technology (IT) governance framework in order to reduce the electoral body's exposure to risk. She says this move would also improve the ECJ's management of all information technology resources.

It is a credit to her that in looking for flaws and misappropriation of taxpayers’ money she also looks for weaknesses in the operation of agencies and makes recommendation for improvement. She also wants improvements to her own entity which is handicapped by and at risk because of the present structure. She said that the entity was prone to weaknesses which may threaten its independence and could contribute to disruption in its audit and processes.

In the meantime, as Auditor General, Monroe Ellis continues to steer the department on a path to establishing the department as the premier supreme audit institute in the region. She is committed to widening the scope of audits and has endeavoured to totally revamp the process within the department, utilising information communication technology and other IT solutions to realise increased efficiency gains. She has crafted the vision of the department which is to promote a better country through effective audit scrutiny of government operations.

The mission of the department is to promote transparency, accountability and best practices in government operations; conduct independent audits and make reports to improve the use of public resources; ensure that public sector financial transactions comply with the wishes of Parliament, relevant laws and regulations, and are conducted with due regard to the avoidance of fraud, waste and extravagance; and develop and maintain the professional competence of the AGD.

Monroe Ellis believes that her team is dedicated and resilient in how they execute their duties. “The emphasis going forward is to offer meaningful recommendations and to garner greater savings and value-added to the different stakeholders which include Parliament and taxpayers,” she said.

Monroe Ellis’s institutional involvement includes the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica (ICAJ) where she also serves on the Public Sector Audit Practice and Investigation Committee, a member of the Integrity Commission, Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, Government of Jamaica Audit Commission and the Financial Administration and Audit Selection Board.

She is no stranger to international associations as she was recently appointed to the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) board for three years. IFAC is the global organisation for the accountancy profession. She is the first person in the region to be appointed in such a capacity. Monroe Ellis is a member of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation's Agriculture Audit Review Committee, International Association of Supreme Audit Institutions and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) Global Forum for the Public Sector. She is a Certified Information System Auditor, a Member of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and a fellow of ACCRA and ICAJ.

Monroe Ellis entered the Public Service in 1997 at the AGD as senior auditor. Her move up the ladder was accelerated: Director, Divisional Director and Deputy Auditor General and Auditor General since April 2008. She created history by being the first female and one of the youngest to hold the post.

She finished just ahead of the Rev Ronnie Thwaites, Minister of Education as this column's Person of the Year for 2012. In his first year in office as minister, Thwaites has brought some new perspectives and proposals to the portfolio to improve education, the most critical factor to human and national development in the country right now. How well his proposals will materialise is left to be seen, but he is expounding the right ideas.

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