Premier says audit logjam being reduced
The Government has moved in the right direction to tackle a backlog of audits of public sector organisations, the Premier has said.
David Burt admitted that there was still a large number of audits behind schedule – but that the number had fallen.
He added: “I would challenge the Auditor-General to state that there is anything going on that is untoward, because there is a difference between having a completed and signed-off audit process and having accounting that is not taking place.
“With the upgrades that have been made by the Progressive Labour Party over the years, whether through Pati or through our Ombudsman or the Department of Internal Audit, we ensure that we are checking ourselves before the Auditor-General checks us, and I think that you will find us in good stead.”
Mr Burt was speaking after Heather Thomas, the Auditor-General, highlighted that about 35 public bodies were a total of 131 years in arrears with their financial statements.
Ms Thomas said transparency was a “hallmark of good governance”, and that the Government should share information with the public and hold officials accountable.
But she added the Government was “continuing to fail in its accountability obligation.”
Ms Thomas said 39 organisations were a combined 139 years of financial statements in arrears last year.
But Mr Burt, speaking at Tuesday’s Covid-19 briefing, highlighted that the number of outstanding audits had decreased because of the Ministry of Finance’s work to tackle the backlog.
“That is the view and position of the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General has a role to play in our country, the Auditor-General has a role under our constitution, and that role is to be respected.
“But I think that all things require proper context and though it’s very easy to report on a headline, what is also important to recognise is the trend – whether or not things are getting better or whether or not things are getting worse.
“The Minister of Finance is committed – he has said it in numerous cases – to reduce the amount of outstanding audits and we have seen in a number of places where there are long outstanding audits and those audits are being brought up to date.”
Mr Burt said that the National Sports Centre and the Bermuda Land Development Company’s backlogs dated back to 2012, when the One Bermuda Alliance was in power.
He added: “I think if you compare the outstanding audits, and how that number has continued to go down and the work which is taking place, I think you would see there is improvement.”
Mr Burt said Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, had done an “admirable job” with limited resources to get audits up to date.
He added that the Government had worked on changes to organisations such as parish councils that would also help to ensure audits were completed on time.
Mr Burt said: “It’s very important for all persons to know that we have some of the most strong and stringent anti-corruption legislation on the planet, and I promise you the Bermuda Police Service will not hesitate to act on any persons inside of this Government that they find is untoward.”