The Internal Audit Service pushed back hard against the auditor-general on Tuesday, returning the favour by accusing the official of “serious negligence and conduct unbecoming” in connection to a report he had released a day earlier.

In his findings, the auditor-general suggested the head of the Internal Audit Service (IAS) was derelict in her duties, having failed to clamp down on an employee suspected of engaging in a conflict of interest.

The auditor-general recommended that the cabinet – which appointed the head of the service – initiate an investigation against her.

But in a statement on Tuesday, the IAS turned the narrative on its head, effectively accusing the auditor-general of shoddy work.

The agency said the auditor had violated “fundamental auditing principles as well as the audit standards that he ought to apply”.

As such, it concluded, “there appears to have been serious negligence and conduct unbecoming on the part of the auditor-general against the auditee, the Internal Audit Service.”

The IAS pointed out that the auditor-general is obliged to carry out meetings with auditees and hear their views before publishing any findings. But the auditor-general did not do that.

Rubbing it in, the agency cited the relevant clause of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions, recalling how the auditor-general himself frequently alludes to them.

“Despite the requirements of these international standards, the auditor-general did not take matters up with the auditee and ask for the auditee’s views, but rather took it up with the finance minister because he wrongly thought that the Internal Audit Service comes under the finance minister, forgetting that the Internal Audit Service is by law an independent authority.”

On the substance of the allegations regarding the functionary at the IAS, the agency stated that the Commissioner of Internal Audit (who heads up the IAS) took immediate action when she became aware of the information.

The commissioner “acted in the public interest and took all action which she deemed necessary to stamp out this phenomenon [conflict of interest]”.

And according to the IAS, all this was communicated to the auditor-general.

But then, the agency said, “we were stunned to learn he had already compiled his conclusions and that he would go ahead and publish his report as if none of this had been communicated to him.

“Based on the above, anyone can judge which of the two auditing authorities acted negligently, inappropriately and unprofessionally.”

The IAS concluded by saying it has all the relevant documentation to back up its claims.

Established in 2003, the IAS is an independent agency tasked with checking the adequacy of internal audit systems across the civil service.