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Auditors ambushed by criticisms months after giving COI evidence

Auditors ambushed by criticisms months after giving COI evidence

Sir Gary Hickinbottom has expressed disappointment at the submission of a large document sent to the Commission of Inquiry (COI) criticising evidence previously given on several audit reports.

The Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers submitted the document on behalf of the Premier’s Office in response to what the Auditor General and government’s Internal Auditor told the COI at hearings months ago.

Sir Gary described the document as disruptive to the COI’s proceedings and said they were discourteous in the manner they were presented.

“The inquiry received a 34-page document running to 200 paragraphs, together with 79 annexes running to 859 pages. The index; that annex is not paginated, or those annexes is not paginated,” COI attorney Bilal Rawat said.

He said no proper notice was given that this was the sort of document the COI was to expect. Rawat also argued that there was no permission sought to submit the document nor were the COI’s protocols for such submissions followed.

“What, taken together, this document shows, is a complete lack of courtesy to the Commissioner to produce something of this size and this detail at this relatively late stage in the inquiry’s proceedings,” the COI attorney said.

He added: “You heard in June from the Auditor General and the Internal Auditor. This document contains criticisms of those two public officers. Their reports were issued earlier this year. They gave evidence on it earlier this year. And yet the response, if this is what it is, to those reports is now being provided in September, at a time when the expectation is that the Commission is reaching at least its final stages of its oral hearings.”

Criticisms a response to stimulus audit reports

Hussein Haeri, who appeared on behalf of Attorney General (AG) Dawn Smith, said the document in question sought to give “a fuller picture” to what the auditors said about government’s economic stimulus programme to farmers, fishers, and small businesses.

The each auditors’ report — both which were done independent of each other — highlighted major inconsistencies and concerns about the government’s handling of the programme.

Meanwhile, since the Premier’s criticisms were submitted through the Attorney General who is the principal legal adviser for government and the public service, Sir Gary directed that the AG set out what support she is willing to give the auditors, as public officers, should either them request it.


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