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Different Auditors-General, same message

Dear Sir,

On August 6, 2021, this newspaper reported some damning statements from our Auditor-General, Heather Thomas, regarding the grossly inadequate and overdue financial reporting by many government entities. This should come as no surprise to anyone if they have been following the Auditor-General reports for the past 15 years. Here is a snapshot:

AG Larry Dennis: audited period 2006-2007

In January 2008, Mr. Dennis: “In my view these problems will persist until Chief Financial Officers and Heads of Departments are held responsible for these deficiencies. This could mean levying financial penalties, demotion or even dismissal.”

AG Larry Dennis: audited period 2007-2008

The frustration over tardy or incomplete financials experienced by the late Larry Dennis in the Office of the Auditor-General has been passed on to his successors, including the late Heather Jacobs Matthews and sitting AG Heather Thomas

In February 2009, Mr Dennis: “I have urged the Ministry of Finance to use its authority to require these entities to report promptly. I have recommended that ministers responsible for these delinquent entities take action to expedite financial reporting.”

AG Heather Jacobs Matthews: audited period: 2010, 2011, 2012

In December 2014, Ms Thomas: “The Accountant-General’s department needs to improve its financial reporting process by evaluating present procedures relating to timeliness and accuracy. We recommended that procedures be enhanced to improve the year-end financial processes and the review of financial statements.”

AG Heather Thomas: audited period 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

In February 2018, Ms Thomas made reference to the Commission of Inquiry report as follows: “The CoI’s report stated that it also considered issues raised in other parts of the Auditor-General’s Report regarding internal accounting matters. It found numerous violations, some of which the CoI found to be serious and persistent. The CoI concluded that there was evidence of possible criminal activity requiring referral to the police.”

AG Heather Thomas: audited period 2011-2017

Regarding late financial reporting, she wrote: “This is unacceptable, and I urge the Government to take all necessary steps to correct this situation. The Ministers responsible for organisations in arrears with their financial statements and the respective Boards of Governance should take all possible steps to bring financial statement preparation up to date as soon as possible.”

AG Heather Thomas: audited period 2018-2019:

In January 2020, Ms Thomas wrote: “Not only does this backlog offend the basic principle of government accountability, and so should be unacceptable to legislators across the spectrum and to the public, it is also a significant deterrent to the Government’s ability to prepare summary financial statements for the whole of government. I believe the root cause of this lack of accountability is ineffective leadership, practices and mindset. It is of concern to me that within the Public Service, those who have failed to carry out their basic responsibilities effectively are not being held to account through disciplinary or other measures”

Over the years, Auditors-General have provided an essential role in scrutinising the way in which our tax dollars are spent, including vast amounts of recommendations for the improvement of government’s fiscal discipline within the Public Service and Civil Service, which, sadly, seems to fall on deaf ears. Since the members of the Public Service Commision — which manages the Public Service and Civil Service —are obviously ineffective in their role, maybe it is time for taxpayers to put a 911 call into their boss’s office. Namely, our Governor, Rena Lalgie.

BEVERLEY CONNELL

Pembroke

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Published August 12, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated August 12, 2021 at 8:08 am)

Different Auditors-General, same message

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