Burch tells House of frustration with Auditor-General
A minister has rebuked the Auditor-General for delays in keeping government agencies up to date on their financial standings.
In a rare public slight, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, expressed concern to the House of Assembly on Friday about waiting times for audits to state bodies.
The harsh words came as MPs debated letting an outside body audit the Bermuda College.
Colonel Burch said: “I am going to put the House on notice and the people of Bermuda on notice that I mentioned to the minister of education that he would be the first to go down this road and we are likely to follow.”
Referring to public bodies, he said: “There is a legislative requirement for those entities to report to this House.
“There is an impediment for them to meet that requirement that is imposed on them by the office of the Auditor-General.
“And, I think it’s even worse than that because on the rare occasion when the Auditor-General agrees to use an outside agency, it’s with the caveat that they must then audit the audit.
“It is a source of significant frustration because the employees and those involved in those entities go the extra mile to get an audit and are impeded in that process in terms of meeting the deadline.
“And then are publicly criticised because you had all these entities that haven’t been audited by the Auditor-General.”
In an apparent reference to the Auditor-General, he said: “I would suggest … and the indication that the minister of education gave, as to her response, was not helpful at all – ‘no, you can’t do that’, hiring an independent firm to do the auditing – that’s not being co-operative, that’s not being progressive.
“I will go this far and say this is symptomatic of several auditors-general of late that have held on to this responsibility as if they are the only people on the planet that can do it.
“I think there should be a wider look at this whole process of audits for government entities.
“Because, it’s in the public interest, that you get the audits done, and, we, as a government would support anything that’s going to accelerate and get us to the point where the Auditor-General will be happy, or should be, if all of the entities, are audited, and the reports are in order, and, any irregularities are brought to light.
“This shouldn’t be a turf war, because that’s what it appears like to me.”
Colonel Burch pointed out the lateness of audits for the likes of the Bermuda Housing Corporation and the West End Development Corporation frustrated these organisations.
Education minister Diallo Rabain told MPs the Government was "hoping" the Auditor-General would choose not to redo the work on the Bermuda College.
One Bermuda Alliance MP Susan Jackson said Bermudian taxpayers gave "an awful lot of money" annually to the Bermuda College to the tune of about $16 million and that the public had a right to know what happened on its books.
Ms Jackson pointed out that the Auditor-General of Bermuda was under a statutory obligation to review the accounts of institutions that received money from the public purse.
Mr Rabain supported moves by the board of Bermuda College to appoint an auditor, which he said was essential for the island's only institute of tertiary education to keep its accreditation status with the New England Commission of Higher Education.