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Consolidated Fund’s 2020 accounts get qualified audit

Heather Thomas, the Auditor-General (File photograph)

The finance minister told MPs he was “disappointed” that the Auditor-General was unable to give a clean audit for the latest financial statements of the Government’s general operating fund.

Curtis Dickinson said the Government should be “setting an example” with its accounting.

The financials of the Consolidated Fund for the year ending March 31, 2020 also showed that the Government’s net debt, where liabilities exceeded assets, increased by $329 million and continued to grow.

Mr Dickinson tabled the statements yesterday in the House of Assembly, with Auditor-General Heather Thomas qualifying her audit because of the lack of a full physical inventory count for Public Works due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Marine and Ports also could not support its physical inventory results.

Mr Dickinson told the House that his ministry did not see the roughly $6 million in inventory as rendering the statements “misleading”.

Cole Simons, the Opposition leader, said the qualified audit was “not a current problem” and offered the support of the Public Accounts Committee, which he chairs.

Mr Dickinson said he hoped to get “external assistance helping us work through the backlog” over the course of the next year.

“I’d be more than willing to work with the PAC,” he said. “It’s expected for the occupant of this seat to work with that body anyway.”

Ms Thomas also reported that although the Government kept within the legislated debt limited of $2.9 billion, it was liable for a further $952 million in guarantees to “various lenders”.

She added: “The Consolidated Fund is required to fulfil the guarantee obligations should there be any default.”

Mr Dickinson told the House that most of the guarantees related to “debt taken out by public authorities”.

A reliable figure could not be provided for any expected return on the stalled Caroline Bay development at Morgan’s Point.

Government was forced to buy the project’s debts in 2019 after financing ground to a halt, and a $165 million government guarantee was called in by the project lenders.

The assets of the developers, Georges Bay Limited, were given a valuation allowance of $183.3 million but an overall net carrying value of just $1,000.

But Ms Thomas said those figures reflected “uncertainty relating to the expected return the Government may receive after GBL assets are written down or where costs have been incurred to facilitate a sale”.

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Published March 27, 2021 at 8:40 am (Updated March 27, 2021 at 8:40 am)

Consolidated Fund’s 2020 accounts get qualified audit

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