We should be led by example
It seems that the cycle of qualified reports of government departments never ends. Auditor-general after auditor-general continues to tell the same story. Lack of reporting of funds spent by the Government and where the money went.
How can we trust the present government with our taxes, and presumably more taxes to come, if it does not get spending and reporting under control?
The tax revenue taken from the people should be spent wisely. We all work hard for our money. We expect our government to spend it carefully and not frivolously.
Time and time again, the private sector and small businesses are expected to support a government that continues to spend as if it can borrow money for ever.
Don’t we have a right to say enough is enough? The people are tired of paying for a government that overspends and lacks proper financial reporting.
A business, or even the finances of a household, cannot run like this. Businesses and households must control spending and increase revenue to survive. If we continue to spend more than we earn, we end up bankrupt.
Look at these remarks by the Auditor-General:
She said “one qualified audit opinion was unfortunately for the financial statements of the Government’s Consolidated Fund for the end of the 2017-18 financial year”.
How can we have a qualified audit for the Consolidated Fund?
This is basically the main bank account of the Government where all public money is deposited. How can we not have adequate reporting?
And this from Heather Thomas:
“The matters, all of which have been discussed in my previous annual reports, show that Government is continuing to make decisions without knowing the combined financial position of all the organisations that make up the government reporting entity.”
How can a government make decisions without knowing its overall financial position? This has to be a joke?
She added: “Further, there are no effective, comprehensive long-term plans for reducing the annual and accumulated deficits or the associated debt, the unfunded liabilities of its major pension plans or the size of taxpayer indebtedness, all of which continue to grow unsustainably.”
Why are we still not addressing the debt? Why are there no plans for reducing costs? Why are we not restructuring departments to make them more efficient as the Sage Report recommended?
It seems there is no political will to make sure the financial errors of the past do not recur.
Ms Thomas added that her office continued to ask for modernisation of the Audit Act 1990. She said that the proposal got support from a parliamentary standing committee in 2016 and a Bill was drafted more than two years ago. But she added there was “no will to advance”.
If there is better legislation that is needed to modernise the Audit Act 1990, then why has it not been passed? The Auditor-General has been asking for this for four years. It was approved by a committee two years ago. You would believe it should be a priority considering the missing reports and missing funds from the Government; the recent $800,000 springs to my mind, and all the other people that have walked away with our money.
Yes, “our money” because it is the people’s hard-earned money that is taxed and given away or spent without proper reporting.
It is ironic that the Government expects all of us to pay our taxes, parking tickets, payroll tax, land tax, car tax, keep our financial reporting in order, but it can keep having audit reports that are incomplete and missing data.
It is time for the Government to lead by example and get its financial reporting and debt under control.
• Karen Hodgkins was a One Bermuda Alliance candidate in the October 1 General Election, and is a former OBA executive secretary, deputy chairwoman and women’s caucus chairwoman