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Greater probing powers for AG

The Auditor General is to get new probing powers after meeting Premier Paula Cox to discuss former Premier Ewart Brown’s controversial emissions testing project.

Ms Cox says law changes are now in the pipeline to give Heather Jacobs Matthews and Director of Internal Audit Heather Thomas greater scope to investigate.

It comes after widespread criticism of the development of the new TCD building and three emissions testing centres: a performance Ms Cox has promised won’t be repeated.

Ms Matthews has condemned the handling of the project by Dr Brown’s Tourism and Transport Ministry; she pointed to a lack of oversight as its costs soared from $5.3 million to $15.2 million.

The Public Accounts Committee has said there was specific intent at the highest level of Dr Brown’s Ministry that the contract be given to Bermuda Emissions Control, a company partly owned by Dr Brown’s friend Dennis Correia, regardless of Financial Instructions rules.

After the PAC released a damning report into the matter last month, the Premier said she would meet the Auditor General to discuss the possibility of a further investigation.

Asked whether that meeting had taken place, and whether an investigation would take place, Ms Cox told

The Royal Gazette: “The meeting with the Auditor General was quite constructive.

“We discussed what further changes were needed to the Audit Act to enable the Auditor to probe deeper when so indicated.

“The Auditor General undertook to liaise with the House Standing Committee on the Office of the Auditor and to revert with recommendations.

“The Auditor General and the Director of Internal Audit are trained and certified in forensic accounting. The legislative changes contemplated will enable the full use of these skills.”

Ms Cox has made a number of moves to improve Government’s record on transparency and accountability, introducing the Good Governance Act to try to stamp out any unethical behaviour.

She has also pledged to carry out rigorous reviews where there are concerns over past projects.

The PAC, consisting of two One Bermuda Alliance MPs and three from the Progressive Labour Party, highlighted a host of concerns over the TCD and emissions initiative.

They said it was difficult to get a definitive answer on how the cost ballooned to three times its initial budget and pointed to a conflict of interest as Government relinquished control to two private companies connected to Mr Correia, Bermuda Emissions Control and Correia Construction Company.

Ms Matthews has also pointed to ministerial interference by Dr Brown and criticised the fact the project was run by his own Ministry instead of Works and Engineering, which took responsibility for all other Government projects at that time.

Governor Sir Richard Gozney recently praised Ms Cox for wiping out “special concessions” granted to Dr Brown’s Ministry.

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Published August 11, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 11, 2011 at 9:29 am)

Greater probing powers for AG

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