Why transparency matters
It should be clearly understood that the Auditor General’s office was not established to demean, discredit or attack anyone in the course of carrying out its responsibilities. Its task is to ensure that the public purse is protected and the authorities comply with procedures and rules that depict the utmost transparency an accountability.
Extremely careful study and research by the Auditor General, Heather Jacobs Matthews, must have taken place before she issued a report which uncovered matters of major concerns regarding how the public purse was being handled. In fact she went on to describe what her department discovered as deplorable conduct by some Government officials.
The report also reveals apparent disparity between a Government Minister and the Premier over a matter relating to the Bermuda Land Development Company (BLDC). Getting to the heart of the matter may be difficult, as there are an awful lot of smokescreens.
The report clearly states that the Premier was alerted by the Auditor General of serious irregularities at the BLDC where $160,000 was paid to the chairman, and deputy chairman, which she stated amounted to a conflict of interest. This is where the smoke gets even thicker. The Premier responds by urging the Minister to have the two men pay back the cash, and suggested they be removed from their positions.
According to the report no action was taken by the Minister in that regard and the public is left to conclude that the Minister chose to ignore the Premier’s suggestion, which did not place her in the brightest light of leadership credibility. Surely she must have been satisfied that the information from the Auditor General passed on to her was sufficient to urge action from the Minister responsible for the BLDC. What is baffling to much of the public is that the incident has a tone of contempt or a degree of disrespect that is not in the best interest of transparency and accountability that most people expect from our leaders.
It is also puzzling why so many politicians under fire, for whatever reason, choose to wage war on the free press who have the responsibility to keep the public informed irrespective of what effect the information will have on this or that political group. The highest priority should be that the people have a right to know.
In the United States, the Republican Party is heavily engaged in vicious personal; attacks in the run-up to nominating a candidate they hope will unseat President Obama. The American public is disgusted with such antics that detract from major issues of the day, but seem powerless to halt them.
Things get quite personal here as well as supporters for one group or the other lose sight of issues, and exchange nasty insulting personal remarks that have no bearing on the matters at hand.
The Royal Gazette did not write the Auditor Generals report, and the newspaper is not a publicity machine for any group. It would be falling short in its duties if it chose to ignore critical issues on the basis that exposing certain matters, might hurt a particular group or someone holding public office.
Democracy will never survive without truth, transparency and accountability. It is the responsibility of the free press to uphold and protect those values. We will have no future without them.
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