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Audit function is one of the most important elements in an organization. The function is not only restricted in assuring that an organization financial reporting show a true and far view, but it also serving the public interest as to strengthen the accountability and reinforce trust and confidence in financial reporting. The public sector has more institutional stakeholders rather than private sector itself. As in public sector context, audit function concerned on ensuring that the money allocated by Parliament was spent according to its purpose and the accounts were properly presented and the also comply with laws and regulations governed by the agencies. Besides that, the government also develops an independent public sector in order to ensure the transparency to its citizen.
National Audit Department is the medium and a body who is responsible in the development of public sector auditing in Malaysia. National Audit Department has been given a mandate to conduct various type of audit to government agencies, therefore the agencies able to deliver services successfully and carry out programs in an equitable and appropriate manner.
Government agencies in Malaysia began to implement public sector in a way to improve the effectiveness and efficiency
Despite National Audit Department has its own code of ethics and corporate culture, the negative comments and perception on the auditors work is unavoidable. Every issues and conflicts rise from the audit affected the image of audit officers, especially those in public sector. Some of them are a never ending conflict. All of this is a result from complexity of public sector environment such as the size, programme, activities, and expenditure. All these conflict and issue need to be handle seriously so that the level of reliability on National Audit Department is at a higher level. This should be taken as a challenge to achieve its objectives in providing and safeguarding public accountability.
One of the issues is on expectation gap. Regardless the auditors are in public or private sector, expectation gap is one of serious issue face by auditors. Expectation gap is never resolve conflict in audit. Expectation gap is defined as the difference between the levels of expected performance of auditors in terms of detecting and reporting on practices and performance of auditees or in this case government agencies. Expectation gap exists due to various factors. Some of the factors that have been discussed are the time lag between auditing profession in identifying and reacting to the change in audit environments and also the expectations of public, existence of different parties with different needs, misunderstanding of the report users on audit function and also several other factors. The main source of the problem is the key player itself which are the auditors and the users. Both private and public sector face the same conflict. Therefore continuous effort on doing research relating to this matter was taken in order to reduce or close the gap that exists.
Other than that, there is constant complaint regarding on the timeliness of audit report. The period after the end of financial year and the issuance of audit report in public sector show a different time taken as compared to private sector. The timeliness of audited financial report is valuable to the financial information users. The timeliness represents the level of usefulness of the report itself. The earlier the information reaches the users, the more useful the information to the users. Some states are said to delay on the preparation of their financial statements. Therefore it will delay the audited financial report too. It does not show a good quality of government officers' in providing timeliness of financial information to the users. Average audit timing for general purpose government is said to take additional of one month than average. And it is said that another additional month taken has change the value of information in the report from useful to no longer useful. Although there has been improvement in the timing of publication, the timing gap is still there and also need to be taken seriously. There is a growing demand by government, parliament and public for a timeliness report. Therefore, it is necessary for National Audit Department to re-examines their audit function to meet the expectation or demand.
Another great concern issue arises recently is regarding on the National Audit Department independence. Some opposition parties and non-governmental organizations believe that National Audit Department is still influenced by outside parties and to be particular, government. These parties and organizations had used media as a medium to react on this particular issue. And it brings a great concern to society. A serious comment had been issued which said that there is no question on Auditor General's independence but, there is doubt on National Audit Department's. However, an explanation has been issued by Auditor General himself; Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, where he said the National Audit Department carries its audit in accordance with international standards without prejudice to any party. He also mentions how confidence he is on the competency and integrity level of those auditors in National Audit Department in carrying out their duties. Though he did admitted that there is some weaknesses, they will strive to improve the process from time to time.
Apart from all the issue arose, National Audit Department also has taken steps to overcome the conflict and issues and also strengthen the capacity and capability of audit officers'. The adequacy of professional and qualified audit personnel is also an issue that has been question by users. The incompetent offices' may jeopardize and ruin what the National Audit Department represents for, an integrity professional body which responsible in maintaining public accountability. Earlier this year, the National Audit Department and Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will undertake an exchange programme involving officers from the two agencies. Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang said that the attachment officers programme goal was to to boost and improve audit offices' capability and capacity in the techniques of detecting misconduct, corruption, misappropriation, contravention of systems and procedures, and irregularities in carrying daily tasks.
Auditor in public sector also should get credit on contribution that they make towards government. The existence of National Audit Department has created a promoting government accountability environment. Even though the role of National Audit Department in promoting accountability towards government bodies has existed for more than 100 years, the effort taken by them have made the accountability level among government bodies shows a lot of improvement. In recent press conference, Auditor-General said that the implementation of rating system which is based on Accountability Index has open government departments and agencies to comply with laws and regulations. The hard works from National Audit Department has made the "value-added" mission succeed. As a result, significant changes can be seen in financial and overall management among government bodies, therefore enhancing accountability, good corporate governance and better transparency. Following the greater efficiency of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police in disposing corruption cases, Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang has pointed out several measures taken that need to be taken to reduce procurement maladministration. Some of the measures are greater reliance on open tender rather than direct negotiation, fairness in the awards of contract and disclosing detail government procurement and privatization contract.
For all these reason, serious concern and step to improve overall performance should be taken into account in order to prove that National Audit Department is capable in performing a sound audit work. A sound audit work help the department in performing audit with compliance to policy, plan and code of ethics. So they may fulfill the objective or the purpose of auditing in public sector which include all levels of government.
The existence and later the development of public sector auditing in Malaysia have been influenced by political and socio-economic systems. Audit institution in Malaysia has been established before Malaysia attained its independence, which is during British Colonial administration in early 20th century to strengthen the Government. There is never ending effort for betterment of government in performing their duty for a great and better accountability towards the citizen. Until now, 2012, the existence of National Audit Department brings a significant change in management and public accountability of public sector administration.
National Audit Department establishment is to be responsible in the development of public sector auditing in Malaysia. The department was organized into federal sector, state sector, and federal statutory bodies. The Auditor General is appointed to head this department. In achieving its objectives to promote and enhance the standard of public accountability, they are empowered by two laws; Federal Constitution and Audit Acts 1957. The department was entrusted to ensure the accountability in administration and management of public funds through the audit of accounts and activities of government agencies.
Even though the establishment of National Audit Department is seen to assist government agencies in improving accountability, there are still issues and conflicts arise from their work. it includes expectation gap which is misunderstood of users on audit report, timeliness of audit report, independency of National Audit Department which is said to be influenced by outside party and to be particular government and also the capability of auditor officers'. These issues have brought serious attention to public and also automatically affect the integrity of the department
The attention given to the issues has made National Audit Department to seek ways as for improvement on their overall performance. Effort taken by Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang with cooperation of the members has leads to decrease in conflict arose before. Apart from the decrease in number of conflicts, National Audit Department performance has improved their overall performance. This better performance leads to achieve accountability and integrity, better operations and increase of citizens and stakeholders towards government organizations.