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Dickinson vows to keep eye on purse strings

The finance minister promised he is keeping a close eye on the public purse strings during the Covid-19 crisis — but his priority is to get relief to struggling families.

Curtis Dickinson was speaking after Heather Thomas, the Auditor-General, warned last month that sound financial management should not be neglected, as the Government's actions throughout the pandemic would have a major and long-term impact on the country.

Mr Dickinson, speaking at a government briefing on Wednesday, said he was a “strict taskmaster” on financial best practices in the Government.

However, he added that the Government had been forced to set up a massive unemployment benefits programme in the space of a few weeks.

Mr Dickinson said: “I am of the view that the perfect should not be the enemy of the practical.”

He added: “In delivering benefits to people, we had to do things fairly quickly. Did we dot all the i's and cross all the t's? No.

“That's what the last few weeks have been all about, avoiding further harm. I would gladly take a licking in order to get food on someone's table to support their family.”

Ms Thomas said in her statement: “While I recognise that those who need assistance need it quickly, I wish to point out that there is still an essential need for strong public accountability and transparency and it is important for decision makers to have up-to-date financial information in order to understand the available capacity for future interventions, both during the pandemic and in the long term.”

Ms Thomas also expressed concern in February that it was “unacceptable” that 28 publicly funded bodies had amassed a backlog of financial statements that totalled more than 100 years.

She added that it was a problem that had plagued successive governments.

Mr Dickinson has pledged to fix the problem.

He said on Wednesday there was “clearly a resourcing issue” both inside the Government and in the Office of the Auditor-General, which was contributed to the lateness of financial statements.

But Mr Dickinson added that he had hired private-sector accountancy firms to help clear the auditing backlog.

Relief priority: Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 15, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 15, 2020 at 8:28 am)

Dickinson vows to keep eye on purse strings

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