PEI’s newly appointed auditor-general lacks the mandatory license required to conduct public financial audits in the province, The Graphic has learned.
Last month, the Clerk of the Provincial Legislature, Joey Jeffrey, recommended to the Island’s 27 MLAs the hiring of Darren Noonan. Prior to becoming the chief watchdog of government operations and expenditures, Mr Noonan spent 16 years in general public accounting, and for the past 13 years was owner/operator of automobile dealerships.
On May 26 MLAs unanimously approved Mr Noonan’s appointment. He has since begun his term.
What MLAs were not aware of prior to their vote is that Mr Noonan must apply to the Chartered Professional Accountants of PEI for renewal of his license to practice public accounting, a rigorous mandatory process required to conduct public audits.
Mr Noonan is a member in good standing of CPA PEI, but CEO Tanya O’Brien confirmed Friday that he is not currently licensed to conduct public audits.
“All members are CPAs, but not all members are licensed to do public accounting,” she said.
This means the auditor general is unable to lead the audit process, the central mission of his office, or sign off on its findings and recommendations, until licensed to do so again.
The renewal process is exhaustive.
Regulations on the CPAPEI website state: “A licensee who applies to renew his or her license to practice public accounting shall satisfy the Board that they have completed 1,250 chargeable hours of practice as a public accountant with in the immediately preceding five years. The hours may be prorated for a licensee who has been practicing public accounting for less than five years.”
The provincial legislature is an independent body and mandated to recommend individuals for positions such as auditor-general, child advocate, chief electoral officer or freedom of information commissioner. As clerk, Mr Jeffrey is responsible for the application process, vetting of applicants and recommendation of a candidate for MLAs to vote on.
Multiple government sources are perplexed at how a candidate lacking the necessary paper credentials could be put forward, describing it as creating an ‘awkward’ strain between the legislative and executive branch of government. “It’s not our position, it’s the legislature’s. It’s independent.”
There is a fear the hiring could negatively impact the public’s trust in the chronically underfunded AG office at a time when demands placed upon it are increasing.
CPA PEI will hold its regular board meeting Monday evening. Ms O’Brien would not say if Mr Noonan’s application for license renewal is on the agenda.
But public trust and transparency are core values of CPA PEI, which represents 700 current and retired accountants, she said. “I have no say in who the province hires as auditor general. We regulate our members. We want to make sure our members are adhering to the standards we set. Our role is to make sure our members are following those.”
Neither Mr Jeffrey or Mr Noonan responded to requests for interviews.