Audit reveals BTA failures, says Simmons

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  • Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister (File photograph)

    Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister (File photograph)

New tourism minister Jamahl Simmons highlighted a string of accounting failures in the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

Mr Simmons told the House of Assembly on Friday: “The findings of this audit are unacceptable and I will be monitoring the BTA closely to ensure higher standards of transparency and accountability from the organisation.”

He said: “I must say I was quite disturbed with its findings and the lack of accountability, which I will highlight further in my statement.”

Mr Simmons added that an audit carried out by the Auditor-General on the BTA, a quango, had found 13 areas where improvement was needed and a requirement to strengthen internal controls.

These included no evidence to support that either the BTA’s compensation and remuneration committee or the BTA board ensured that criteria for bonuses to the executive management team were met.

In addition, performance appraisal forms for selected staff, which are used to calculate the personal component of incentive bonuses, were not provided by the BTA.

Other problems raised in the report were a lack of board approval for a 30 per cent discretionary payment to former CEO Bill Hanbury, a payment posted as a credit instead of a bad debt recovery, a lack of signed contracts for services and sponsorships and payments made before the completion of milestones.

Mr Simmons added that 12 of the 13 board minutes for the year included in camera sessions — sessions held in private — which were not recorded in the minutes.

And he said the audit and risk committee, which was supposed to meet every quarter, had not met in the last quarter of 2016 or the first quarter of this year.

The BTA also failed to provide a response to the Auditor-General on whether they had been given declarations of interest from its employees or how this requirement was communicated to staff.

The Auditor-General’s report said: “The board should update its governance charter to ensure that there is proper oversight and review of incentive bonuses, particularly the executive management team.”

It added: “Given the discretionary nature of the incentive bonus awarded to the former CEO, the board or the compensation and remuneration committee should approve the bonus percentage awarded to the former CEO and document such approval in its minutes.

“The board should ensure that the minutes of all meetings, including in camera sessions, are documented.”

The Auditor-General’s report added that the Government’s financial instructions should form “the minimum standard for financial controls in every quango”, even though the BTA has its own financial policies.

And it said: “Management should follow its compensation philosophy and ensure the timely completion of the signed performance appraisals. Moreover, the compensation and remuneration committee should not be approving the incentive bonuses prior to receipt of the completed performance appraisal forms.”

The report added that contract provisions should be met in full before payments to suppliers are made.

Mr Simmons told MPs that the BTA had accepted problems spotted by auditors and started to implement the report’s recommendations.

But he added: “It is unfortunate that such measures had to be identified through the audit process for actions to be undertaken to improve the level of transparency within this organisation.”

To read Jamahl Simmons’s speech in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

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Published Sep 18, 2017 at 12:01 am (Updated Sep 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm)

Audit reveals BTA failures, says Simmons

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