Barbados Auditor General Says Millions Missing – We Say No Laws Were Broken
New Auditor General Was Supposed To Be A Guard-Dog – But We Ended Up Hiring A Puppy
Barbados Auditor-General Leigh E. Trotman made his first report to Parliament and said that over $2 million was missing from nine agencies. Trotman also pointed out that the agencies had no or poor purchasing controls which led to situations such as…
Full Barbados Free Press Article
BU found it surprising that our readers prefer to read the juicy “topics”. Sometime ago when we wrote a piece on the failing of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), there was a lower interest when we compare the hits to the other topics posted. The PAC is one of the pivotal watchdog agencies in our system of government, BU would have thought that an educated Barbadian public would have shown careful interest to what we have suggested is a committee in parliament which has functioned inefficiently for many years. In fact our article concluded that the system of government which has served us well over the years rely too much on conventions.
Barbadians we know are a conservative people and will react in their own time. Hopefully it will not be too late and the stable political climate which Barbados has enjoyed post- independence will continue.
Another government watchdog which we are not satisfied of its effectiveness is the Auditor General. For how many years have we read the Auditor General’s reports and it has evoked little interest in the public place? If we were to compare the Auditor General to an external auditor in the private sector; the importance of complying with international accounting standards is mandatory. More importantly, audit comments issued by external auditors have to be responded to in precise timeframes if balance sheets are to be taken certified. In contrast we read the Auditor General’s statements every year beseeching the government to follow the financial rules when conducting business. We applaud Barbados Free Press for highlighting several stories on the ineffectiveness of the Auditor General one of which we have quoted.
BU can use an example recorded in the Auditor General 2006 report:
The Auditor General issued the following statement when a certain financial transactions was audited at the Psychiatric Hospital.
There were a number of contracts awarded to a contractor for refurbishment work which were not in conformity with the Financial Rules. The Financial Rules require a tendering process for expenditure in excess of $100,000.00. They also require that work should not be subdivided in a manner so as to avoid the tender requirement. It was however observed that contracts were awarded for sums totaling in excess of $645, 000.00 to a firm to supply labor for construction work on Ward C of the hospital. Two of these contra98,400.00 and the other for $98,930.00, were made on 15th and 30th October, 2004, respectively. These contracts appear to have been awarded in such a manner as to avoid the tendering process.
This is the response from the Psychiatric Hospital.
The Management of the hospital would welcome the opportunity to be able to offer for tender major projects, but our constraint is the lack of funds and the inability to secure such funds to complete projects within a financial year. Therefore to conquer this obstacle and at the same time achieve our objectives we normally have to phase our projects over two or more years.
So how does the Auditor General demand accountability and hold civil servants to account?
It seems to BU that there exist a close relationship between the PAC and the Auditor General to ensure that there is the threat of punitive action in the event transgressions by government departments recur. Similar to the workings of the PAC it seems to be the fear of being exposed in the annual estimates that drives the transparency in the system. Of course if that does not work there is the PAC which, if allowed to function, can investigate any avenue of government expenditure.
The reality is that civil establishment in Barbados which has served us so well over the years needs to be re-engineered. A classic example is the volume of government requests which flow to the Solicitor General’s office on a daily basis. What this means is that the financial rules of the country MUST be broken if Barbados is to mobilize projects in the country within reasonable time frames. It is just not possible for the Solicitor General to respond to all requests in the context of a government bureaucracy. In the example provided which showed how the Psychiatric Hospital circumvented the financial rules without any fear of recrimination must be of concern. BU imagine that this occurrence can be amplified through the Civil Service.
Barbados Public Accounts Committee Is A Toothless Tiger
Barbados Auditor General Says Millions Missing-We Say No Laws Broken