Auditor General’s statement

The Auditor General can undertake special purpose audits (reviews/investigations) on his own initiative and/or at request from the President or the National Assembly as provided in the Constitution and the Auditor General Act. A special purpose audit looks at a particular issue, system, function, operation, scheme, project, programme or an organisation, either in isolation or in a transversal, cross-cutting manner. The rule of thumb used for selection of the subject matter is ‘does it matter to the public’.

The purpose of a special audit is to provide objective information on the particular subject matter to those who seek that information. These reports often result in better decision making and positive differences in public institutions. The positive differences in turn result in better service delivery to the public through efficient public administration and cost savings through sound finance management, in other words, better value for the money. These processes help promote good governance, transparency and accountability.

The Financial Assistance for Job Retention Scheme (FA4JR) was put in place in March 2020 in response to the economic meltdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic spreading across the world. As the country went into a nation-wide lockdown, cutting off all air and sea connections with the rest of the world, the employees in private sector faced the highest risk of loss of income. Hence, the main aim of the scheme was to assist businesses and NGOs to pay their employees’ salaries and wages in order to prevent any redundancies. The scheme operated from April 2020 to March 2021 during which a total sum of SR1,450,648,071 was disbursed through the Treasury, of which SR1,266,056,247 was during the period April to December 2020 covered by the audit.

Audit found instances of inadequate assessment of applications and non-application of established criteria in the administration of the scheme resulting in overpayments. On the part of employers, there were instances of providing inadequate and incorrect information adding more pressure to the committee’s work in assessing such claims. Authorities should be aware that a large number of expatriate workers appearing on the payrolls submitted to the Committee for processing financial assistance were without valid identification (NIN, Passport or GOP).

Appropriate action should be initiated not only to recover the overpayments but also formulate better policies and procedures when any financial assistance is provided in future emergencies so that only those who are in need will receive such assistance.

Auditor General

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