I get the poll but we had to take action
I would like to comment on The Royal Gazette’s polling report that shows people think the investigations into the activities of Ewart Brown, the former premier, and the misuse of public money by Progressive Labour Party governments are racially and politically motivated.
As Premier, I can speak only to matters that come under the Government’s responsibilities, such as the recently completed Commission of Inquiry and the findings of auditors-general into the misuse of public funds.
I cannot address police investigations since they do not fall under the responsibility of the Government, but would point out that a police investigation into Dr Brown began in 2011, well before the One Bermuda Alliance was elected to office.
It is no secret that successive auditors-general found serious deficiencies in accountability and good governance of public funds during the PLP years in government. In December 2011, the Auditor-General issued a special report that found “blatant disregard for the public purse and a lack of transparency and accountability at the most senior levels of Government”.
That was the last such report released while the PLP was the Government of Bermuda. Then, in December 2014, the Auditor-General released her report on the financial years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
That report marked the fifth straight year that Bermuda’s auditor-general could not say the financial statements of the government of the day presented a true and fair picture of its management of the people’s money.
Her report described serious problems of accountability and control in the administration of the public purse — problems that harmed the financial wellbeing of Bermuda.
The Auditor-General pointed to an “ingrained” tendency within government to overspend budgets in ways that raised questions about spending controls, cash management and the credibility of the budget process.
The most serious area of concern was government failure to obey its own financial instructions. These instructions exist to impose financial controls that are consistent with international best practice. They are essential to upholding principles of accountability, value for money, fairness and transparency.
The Auditor-General reported millions of dollars spent without Cabinet approval, millions of dollars paid without signed contracts, tens of millions of dollars committed to contracts not tendered, and millions paid to consultants without approval.
The findings were disturbing.
As Premier, I considered it my duty to do something to address, to stop and to reform the practices and system failures that were contributing to the misuse of public funds and the terrible damage they were doing to Bermuda’s global reputation.
And so I appointed the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Auditor-General’s report for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 financial years.
It is important, in light of the Gazette’s poll, to remember that the Opposition leader at the time, Marc Bean, supported the formation of the commission because “Bermudians need to know that our civil servants, elected officials or government ministers have not acted either unethically or illegally”.
Mr Bean saw this as an opportunity to end what he described in August 2016 as “the politics of plunder”.
The commission’s report, released last month after more than a year’s work, made referrals to police of “possible criminal activity” and 50 recommendations to strengthen accountability and transparency in our overall governance.
The Government is committed to driving reform forward, with senior managers within the Civil Service already engaged in a comprehensive review of the commission’s recommendations.
All of this is good news for a better Bermuda.
And while I understand the politics behind the Gazette’s poll findings, the Government was duty-bound to take action. To do nothing in the face of the Auditor-General’s findings was not an option.
That’s the point; the only point, really.
•Michael Dunkley is the Premier of Bermuda and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)
• On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.
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