Full disclosure on Govt’s past mistakes and repercussions is needed, says OBA

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  • <B>Trevor Moniz</B>

    Trevor Moniz


Government’s acknowledgment in this year’s Throne Speech that it regrets past mistakes is “contrition without confession”, according to One Bermuda Alliance MP Trevor Moniz.

The Shadow Attorney General called on Premier Paula Cox to detail the mistakes referred to in the speech’s section on good governance and explain how “those wrongs will be righted”.

“When you have words like these, forceful words, they have to be accompanied by forceful action and that’s what’s missing,” he said.

“What’s contrition without confession? It doesn’t work. It’s like saying a Hail Mary if you are Catholic. It doesn’t go much beyond that.”

He said Finance Minister Ms Cox’s promises about ensuring public funds were properly spent rang hollow without full disclosure of past mistakes and action against those responsible.

“Just spit it out. Just say ‘these are the mistakes and we are going to rectify them’. Tell us what they were and what you are going to do about it.”

The Throne Speech revealed that Government has begun work on the “next phase of good governance legislation”, following the approval of the Good Governance Act in the House of Assembly in July.

The speech stated: “As with any ambitious transformation, your Government had to learn lessons and acknowledge that sometimes mistakes have been made and things have gone wrong.

“The Government regrets those mistakes. Accountability is a high priority for the Government of Bermuda. It has sent a strong and unequivocal message that it has zero tolerance for behaviour and practices that do not accord with the highest standards of good governance.”

At a press conference after the reading of the speech on Friday, Ms Cox was asked by The Royal Gazette which mistakes the Government regretted.

She said: “The mistakes that we talked about in ample detail with the Auditor General’s responses. I think I was clear then. I gave chapter and verse and said we were setting in motion some corrective action.”

Ms Cox introduced the Good Governance Act this summer to stamp out unethical behaviour in government.

But Auditor General Heather Matthews said earlier this month existing laws already gave the Premier the ability to take action against public officers who broke the rules.

Ms Matthews, who has issued reports severely criticising several publicly-funded projects, said she believed nobody had the fortitude to punish government officials alleged to have allowed taxpayers’ money to go to waste in former Premier Ewart Brown’s administration.

Mr Moniz said it was hard to swallow the claim that Government had “zero tolerance” for poor practices involving public funds.

He cited the Auditor General’s damning conclusions on the Faith Based Tourism and TCD projects carried out within the Tourism and Transport Ministry, when Dr Brown was Minister and Marc Telemaque was permanent secretary.

“Are people going to be called to account or is there no accountability?” asked the Shadow Justice Minister. He described Ms Cox as “like a crab walking sideways and not really approaching the problem directly”.

“You know there’s a big problem, you know something needs to be done about it, but you can’t really face up to it.”

According to the Throne Speech, legislation is to be introduced to enable public authorities, including the Director of Internal Audit and the Auditor General, to “follow the money” i.e. ensure funds paid to vendors, contractors and organisations are used for the purpose for which they were authorised.

A whistle-blower law is also on the cards, along with legislation “outlawing the provision of inducements whether in the public or private sector”.

The speech stated: “Taken together, these statutes will set out the rules of engagement which must be consistently applied when engaging in financial transactions and contracts in all public authorities, including quangos.”

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Published Nov 7, 2011 at 8:17 am (Updated Nov 7, 2011 at 8:16 am)

Full disclosure on Govt’s past mistakes and repercussions is needed, says OBA

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