Lack of Audit Committee meetings is hampering my work Auditor General
Auditor General Heather Matthews says shes been unable to make her reports public because the Audit Committee has not been performing its functions during 2011.
Mrs Matthews wrote to House of Assembly Speaker Stanley Lowe saying the Committee, which must review her documents before she submits them, had acknowledged conflicts of interest and failed to get a quorum at a recent meeting.
At Mrs Matthews request, the Speaker brought the matter to the attention of MPs in the House yesterday.
Premier Paula Cox later issued a statement saying describing the Auditors action as oddly premature.
It appears the conflict was due to the chair of the Committee being associated with the accounting firm which was doing preparation work on financial statements of Parish Councils.
That chair stepped down on June 30 and was replaced the following day, according to Ms Cox.
Ms Cox said the chair had expressed concern some members of the committee had failed to attend the meeting despite giving confirmation of attendance.
Yesterday morning, Mr Lowe read out a letter from Mrs Matthews stating: The Audit Act 1990 requires me to submit my reports for tabling in the House of Assembly once they have been reviewed by the Audit Committee appointed under Section 5 of the Act.
Due to acknowledged conflicts of interests with certain members of the Committee and the lack of a quorum at a recently convened meeting, the Audit Committee appointed for the period beginning January 1, 2011 has been unable to perform its functions.
Consequently, I have been unable to submit my reports for tabling in the House of Assembly. This has placed me in the untenable position of having to consider acting outside of the legislation in order to report to the House of Assembly and people of Bermuda.
Accordingly, I am therefore requesting that you bring this matter to the attention of the Honourable members of the House of Assembly at the earliest convenience.
Ms Cox responded: Premier and Minister of Finance the Hon Paula Cox, JP, MP commented today on the communication from the Auditor General to the Speaker of the House of Assembly on the status of audit reports.
Premier Cox stated: It is very odd that the Auditor General would write prematurely to the Speaker of the House of Assembly without reference to the Chair of the Audit Committee.
In June 2011, the Auditor General raised an issue of conflict in that work on the preparation of financial statements of Parish Councils was being done by an accounting firm associated with the then Chair of the Committee.
Out of an abundance of caution, the incumbent Chair stepped down with effect from June 30, 2011. A new Chair was appointed with effect from July 1, 2011.
There are no other issues of conflict as the Act is clear that a Government employee may not be appointed to the Committee. The composition of the Committee conforms to that stipulation. Further, there are sufficient persons on the committee for the work to proceed.
My office contacted the Chair of the Committee this morning as a result of the Auditors letter and has also advised His Excellency the Governor of the Auditor Generals action.
The Chair of the Committee confirmed that the Auditor General had not discussed her proposed action with him prior to sending the letter to the Speaker.
The Chair did express concern about some members of the Committee not attending after giving a confirmation of attendance. However the Chair remains confident that the Committee will conclude its work so that the audit reports may be finalised as soon as possible.
It is most unfortunate that the Auditor Generals letter could give the contrary impression.