Telemaque should be fined, believes Auditor General
The Auditor General believes former Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque should be fined for disregarding Government’s rules in the controversial TCD project.
Mr Telemaque did not comply with the financial rules and did not follow a Cabinet decision to put the satellite emissions testing facilities out to tender.
Auditor General Heather Matthews said similar issues have been found in other large Government capital projects and the lack of accountability could mean the disregard for financial rules will continue.
The Public Accounts Committee is currently holding hearings into Ms Matthews special report which revealed a $10 million overspend on the TCD project, ministerial interference from the outset and a “lack of accountability and a general disregard for established policies and procedures in the use of public funds”. The report states the cost of the development eventually tripled from $5.3 million to $15.2 million. The report states this happened after control was “relinquished” to BECL and Corriea Construction Company Limited. It adds Mr Telemaque ignored a Cabinet direction to hold an open tendering process for the TCD satellite facilities.
Last month Mr Telemaque told the Committee he accepted criticism of the process and in hindsight he would do some things differently.
He added: “I think that the process would ultimately have been incredibly slower and that the important workers at that site would probably still today have to close because it’s raining.”
But Ms Matthews said the financial instructions have been around for decades and are akin to the Civil Service’s bible. She added that no one knows how much Government could have saved if the rules had been followed.
“Mr Telemaque’s comment that he didn’t follow the rules because it would have delayed the project, certainly that would impact the bottom line and we don’t know by how much,” she said.
“We cannot determine if there was value for money because there was no oversight and a lack of controls. We know there was an original amount and we know that sometimes things change in the planning process.
“All we know about the changes is that values and costs were put forward by an outside company that seemed to escalate, the information came from that outside company with no independent information to verify it.
“I think that is the key there. It’s like sending your builder to the bank to negotiate your mortgage!”
At the time of the TCD sole tendering decision Mr Telemaque held the highest post within the Civil Service; Ms Matthews said Government needed to hold people accountable for their actions if they wanted to ensure the public purse is being protected.
When asked if Mr Telemaque should be held accountable she said: “Yes.”
She added: “The next step is once there is a concern that someone did not follow the rules there needs to be a penalty or surcharge on someone who has gone against the financial instructions.
“Bermuda has never done that, although the rules are quite clear on that.”
Under the Public Treasury Act civil servants who are responsible for “improper payments” or pay public money without properly “vouching” for it can be fined a sum equivalent to the “payment deficiency”. The financial rules also state the Minister of Finance can strip the individual of their financial signing authority as well as their role in preparing the Budget and/or take other “disciplinary proceedings”.
Ms Matthews added: “The Committee can only do so much by bringing to light what is wrong within the civil service but the next step is bringing accountability to the process.
“That is part of the process, public accountability.
“You shouldn’t really do your work in the dark when you are dealing with public money.”