A page has been turned, states Premier after fraud trial
Financial controls have been tightened since the case of Kyril Burrows, the senior civil servant convicted of fraud this week, according to Premier Paula Cox.
The Government is committed to ensuring that strong internal controls are in place in every Government department and that such controls are rigorously monitored for compliance, she said last night.
However, the Opposition voiced concerns that financial oversight may still be weaker than it should be.
As The Royal Gazette reported yesterday, Burrows and his wife, Delcina Bean-Burrows were convicted by a jury of misappropriating almost $543,000 of taxpayers money. The pair engaged in what a prosecutor described as a systematic ripping-off of the people of Bermuda between 2005 and 2009.
Burrows, an architect, took advantage of his position as buildings manager at the Ministry of Works and Engineering to commit the crime. He dishonestly submitted invoices in order to get Government to pay for renovations to the private home he shared with his wife in Turkey Hill, St Georges. He also used public money to buy three television sets.
The couple worked together to funnel taxpayers cash to Bean-Burrows companies Ren Tech and Theravisions for work they should never have been paid for.
They were originally charged along with two Works and Engineering superintendents, Greatfield Carmichael and Calvin Waldron. Charges were dropped against the other defendants before the trial began. They ended up giving evidence about how they authorised payments for Burrows, who was senior to them, without reading the documents and without knowledge of the projects in question.
The jury also heard how, a month after the crime commenced in 2005, Burrows was caught abusing his Government-issued credit card. Accountant General Joyce Hayward explained that Burrows was given a warning for breaching Financial Instructions by racking up $31,000 in unauthorised charges on the card, but he kept his job and faced no charges.
He quit his post in 2008 after managers discovered he had used taxpayers money to buy a 58-inch plasma screen television. The charges he and his wife faced came about after he left stacks of documents behind at the Works and Engineering depot in Prospect, detailing the fiddled payments. They are now facing jail, and will be sentenced at a later date.
Asked for her reaction to the case, Ms Cox said: A page has been turned. The Government, through the relevant officers and appropriate legislation, have increased the level of controls and enhanced governance. This has been a deliberate set of actions taken in recognition that more should be done to protect the public purse.
It should be noted that the Government has already acted to improve the overall financial controls across Government with the strategic placement of accountant-comptrollers in each Ministry and in the key revenue-generating and/or large departments.
The implementation of a new ERP system (E1) in November 2011 by the Accountant General has further assisted in safeguarding the public purse by strengthening the overall control framework across Government.
Financial Instructions have been updated and legislation to mandate some of these items is being progressed. Legislation enabling the Office of Project Management and Procurement to provide oversight of all capital projects and to enhance procurement practice has also been enacted.
This legislation is to ensure that best practices are adhered to, and along with enhanced monitoring of controls by the Accountant General and the Internal Audit Department will provide greater transparency and a view to continue to strengthen controls over capital projects and procurement in general. There is also new legislation on the books dealing with good governance.
However, while welcoming the verdict, Shawn Crockwell, the One Bermuda Alliance chief whip, said: The issue is not whether the Financial Instructions are sufficient but whether they are being enforced and, when breached, is there any accountability for the wrongdoer.
Based on this case and other similar examples, the answers seem to be a resounding no. This is totally unacceptable and exposes the Government and the public purse to systemic abuse and corruption. A more efficient and proactive approach must be established to detect breaches of the Financial Instructions and harsh penalties, such as summary dismissal and criminal prosecution, must be imposed when individuals are caught.
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