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Public Sector Performance Auditing and Accountability:A Fijian Case Study

This thesis examines how and theorises as to why performance auditing in the Fijian public sector was inexplicably discontinued in 1997. The Fijian socio-political history during, after and prior to the 1970-2000 period, in which the practice of performance auditing emerged, was implemented and was subsequently discontinued is explored. The study draws on critical hermeneutics to interpret the text empirics, and informs the research findings using Roberts’ (1991, 1996, 2010) interpretation of accountability. The findings revealed that powerful actors and institutions such as the Auditors-General, Ministers of Finance, Public Service Commission, Public Accounts Committee members, auditees and the Asian Development Bank influenced the changes in public sector auditing in Fiji. During the 1970-1997 period Auditors-General (Bhim, Narain and Datt) held the government and the auditees to account by performing compliance to budget and financial attest audits. Their efforts were constrained by the Ministers of Finance who withheld funds and the Public Service Commission, which failed to recruit sufficient staff. In 1995, Auditor-General Datt undertook performance auditing without a mandate, Auditors-General Datt and Jacobs efforts to seek a performance audit mandate were overlooked by the Minister of Finance (Kubuabola) during 1996-1998. In 1999, the Rabuka government enacted the new Public Finance Management Act, which provided the Auditor-General with limited scope for performance auditing. The Chaudry government recalled this Act thus withholding the limited scope. The conclusions were the Auditors-General used accounting to make visible the conduct of the auditees during the 1970-1995 period. The media extensively publicised the audit findings and disclosures creating a perception of lack of accountability. The successive indigenous Fijian led governments inspired by the need for political supremacy overlooked the audit findings and effectively deflected being held to account. The spirit of the Westminster system of auditing was not honoured and served as a symbolic gesture. During 1995-1996 Auditor General Datt overstepped the provisions of the 1970 Audit Act and implemented performance auditing thus incorporating non-accounting information to hold the accountors to account. Literature on performance auditing indicates that this practice is widely accepted in most western democracies this is not so in Fiji, partly because of the dominance of tribal structures and asymmetrical power distributions. The implication for policy makers, government and the Auditor-General is that changes in audit scope be accompanied by changes in relevant statute. Socialising form of accountability accompanied with the traditional hierarchal form offers the potential to reduce the asymmetrical power distribution amongst the powerful actors in the public (audit) sector. This combination also offers a greater chance to the accountee to effectively hold the accountor to account for both accounting and non-accounting performance. Transparencies created by accounting be followed by consequences so that accountors take responsibility for their action. The donor agency and other change agencies such as the Auditor-General be sensitive to the unique political and cultural circumstances of the indigenous community in a less developed country such as Fiji.
Type of thesis
Nath, N. D. (2011). Public Sector Performance Auditing and Accountability:A Fijian Case Study (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5364
University of Waikato
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