Present Set Up
The National Audit Office (NAO) emerged in its present form since 1968 when Mauritius became independent. In fact, the history of public auditing in Mauritius started well before that period. Earliest record available at the NAO consists of reports of the Auditor General of Mauritius dating as far back as 1871, addressed then to the Colonial Secretary.
Mauritius was discovered by the Portuguese in 1510, followed in 1598 by the Dutch who called it the "Star and Key of the Indian Ocean". The French occupied it from 1715 until the British came in 1810. Through these colonisation processes, Mauritius inherited both the French and the British administrative and legal systems. The procedures for the disbursements and accountability of public funds are derived mainly from the British. The Auditor General’s report of 1871 therefore coincided with the period witnessing major reforms in Public Finance and Parliamentary accountability in Great Britain. Since Mauritius was then a British Colony, these reforms had a direct bearing on accountability and reporting requirements in Mauritius.
Evolution of Audit Office – Mauritius
- Cessation of Imperial Audit
- Reorganisation of Audit Office – Mauritius
Cessation of Imperial Audit
During the British Rule, prior to the setting up of an Audit Office in Mauritius under the direction of an Auditor-General , the Accounts were under the scrutiny of Imperial Audit.
The development of the island, with more frequent dealings with Great Britain and other British colonies later, brought about an increase in the volume of transactions in Mauritius. The Crown Agents Accounts had become so voluminous that in 1871 Imperial Audit ceased their audit and handed them over to the Audit Office in Mauritius.
Re-organisation of Audit Office – Mauritius
The additional workload necessitated a re-organisation of the Audit Office in 1871 with the appointment of a "Special Examiner" to audit only the Crown Agents Accounts.
The responsibility for the audit of Mauritius Accounts ultimately devolved entirely upon the Audit Office. This entailed continuous re-organisation and re-orientation of the audit function. Annual Audit reports were then addressed to the Director of Colonial Audit in England till 1967, when the Colony of Mauritius was given more autonomy for its day-to-day administration.
Annual audit reports for Mauritius were addressed to the Director of Colonial Audit in Great Britain. They were being acted upon by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) which was established in Great Britain in 1861 to scrutinize audit findings. With the setting up of a Mauritian Parliament under British Rule and Legislation, later audit reports were scrutinised by the Mauritian PAC.
Initially, we were required to examine each and every transaction. This became no longer possible and realistic with the increase in the level of Government activities. The emphasis was later laid on the detailed examination of a sample of transactions but with more reliance on departmental systems of control.
Role of Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
The PAC was established in 1968 under the Standing Orders and Rules of the Mauritius National Assembly then known as the Legislative Assembly. It is a sessional Select Committee set up to examine audited accounts as reported by the Director of Audit and such other accounts laid before the Assembly as the latter may refer to it together with the Director of Audit’s report thereon. Nine members constitute the Committee, with the Chairman being a member of the Opposition. The PAC is also empowered to send for persons and records, to take evidence and to report to Parliament from time to time. It has to satisfy itself that disbursements of public funds are as required, as legally provided, and in compliance with regulations. It has also to ensure that cases of negative expenditure and financial irregularities are subject to scrutiny.
The setting up of the PAC was an additional means to bring public expenditure under parliamentary control. In this process the report of the Director of Audit remains an invaluable tool for the PAC’s work.
Independence and powers of the Director of Audit
Before the independence of Mauritius in 1968, the accounts were being examined in accordance with the General Instructions and Rules of the Overseas Audit Department and the Audit Report was submitted as required by Colonial Regulations 267.
Section 110 of the Constitution of Mauritius establishes the Office of the Director of Audit and laid down his powers and independence as follows: -
- The public accounts of Mauritius and of all courts of law and all authorities and officers of the Government shall be audited and reported on by the Director of Audit and for that purpose the Director of Audit or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall have access to all books, records and other documents relating to those accounts.
- In the exercise of his functions under the Constitution, the Director of Audit shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
The Finance and Audit Act further amplifies the constitutional powers and duties of the Director of Audit as well as the method of control and management of public funds. It also prescribes the function and responsibilities of the Minister responsible for Finance and those of Accounting Officers and the various accounts to be kept.
The Development of Audit
Formerly public auditing and reporting were concerned mainly with two aspects:
- Completeness and accuracy of the published statements, and
- Exercise of control.
In the 1960’s the Government’s financial affairs grew in size and complexity. The improvements in standards of accountancy and the inadequacy of the small establishment of the Audit Office demanded a complete re-appraisal of auditing set up and practices. The increase in the number of Statutory Bodies, many of them running almost along commercial lines and the steady advancement in computerisation of public accounting systems led to the formulation and adoption of modern auditing concepts and practices.
Consequently, in quest of professionalism and more experienced personnel we have resorted to continuous training of staff both locally and overseas We managed to increase both our technically and professionally qualified personnel despite a high turnover rate in that field, as many of our officers were moving to other sectors of public affairs. These transitions were made as smoothly as possible and we successfully adapted to the changes. We continue to ensure that we remain fully equipped so as to be always ready to face new challenges.
Likewise, our audit approaches have evolved to include programme results reviews/evaluations and since early 1980’s we were already in the forefront to implement the modern concept of value for money in our audit work. IT audit and issues relating to Corporate governance have also been taken care by us.
Today we are fully equipped to offer our services, experience and training to other countries in the region and to the regional organisation known as the Southern African Development Community.