Richards On ‘Political Obstruction’

December 12, 2011

Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards [pictured] said the Auditor General’s complaint that a Government audit committee is preventing her from reporting to the public should be a concern for any Bermudian, and the Committee’s lack of action “amounts to political obstruction.”

On Friday [Dec.9] Speaker of the House Stanley Lowe read a letter from Auditor General Heather Matthews which said she has been unable to submit her reports for tabling in the House of Assembly as the Audit Committee has not perform its functions.

Premier and Minister of Finance Paula Cox replied to the letter calling it “very odd.”

In a statement released last night [Dec.11] Mr. Richards said, “The Auditor General’s complaint that a Government audit committee is preventing her from reporting to the public should be a concern for any Bermudian who wants open, transparent, accountable government.

“The Audit Committee has been in existence since January 1st this year, but has yet to review the Auditor General’s report, meaning she is unable to make it public. The Committee’s lack of action on the report amounts to political obstruction.

“The Premier’s attack on the Auditor General for appealing to the Speaker of the House of Assembly for help indicates she is more concerned with the standing of her government than public truth – a classic example of not putting Bermuda first.

Mr Richards continued on to say: “The last meeting of the Audit Committee did not generate a quorum, prompting the Auditor General to say in a letter to Mr. Lowe that she ‘has been unable to submit my reports for tabling in the House of Assembly.’

“The extraordinary letter amounted to a cry for help. The Auditor General said the Audit Committee’s dysfunction placed her in the “untenable position of having to consider acting outside the legislation” in order to report to the people of Bermuda.

“For the record, no Opposition MPs sit on the Audit Committee. It is a completely Government-controlled body, with the Premier sitting as an ex officio member.

“It is difficult not to see the failure to meet over the course of the year on the Auditor General’s report as political obstruction; and you can fill in the blanks why: The Government does not want the public to learn any more about its handling of the public purse in the lead-up to an election.

“In order for the public to have an understanding of how its money is being handled by their government, they need truthful information, which is what the Auditor General’s mandate requires her to provide.

“But for this to happen, the apparatus of accountability must work. In this case, Audit Committee has thrown a wrench into the works and the public is kept in the dark because of it.

“Despite the Premier’s many statements about strengthening the rules of governance to end ‘business as usual’, nothing has really changed.

“Her criticism of the Auditor General for going outside the system to break the logjam created by the Audit Committee should tell you enough about the Premier’s commitment to better governance.

“The Government can operate in a manner that allows the sunshine of public scrutiny to shine on its handling of the public purse or it can shut down the release of any information, as it appears to have done in this instance.

“The One Bermuda Alliance is fully committed to a programme of government reforms that will guarantee the free-flow of information,” concluded Mr. Richards.

Commenting on Mr. Richards’ statement, Junior Minister of Finance Sen. David Burt said, “The latest attempt by the Shadow Minister of Finance to manufacture a political controversy and claim the Government is attempting to hide accounts from the public is disappointing.

“While the OBA is prepared to be reckless with the country’s financial reputation with their conspiracy theories, these ridiculous claims lower their own credibility when dealing with the important issues facing Bermuda.

“The PLP Government has continuously been committed to transparency, and today the PLP Government will take another step forward in this direction.

“The opposition can continue to release farcical political statements as it searches for political relevance, however the public knows that this Government is committed to transparency and good governance.”

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  1. navin johnson says:

    its obstruction Bob plain and simple...Even the sheeple who blindly support the Government will not be able to accept the way the islands finances have been handled when they finally do get to see them. All will be delayed until after an election unless Bob and his cohorts keep pounding away at all that is wrong with this government.....you will not run out of material for there is so much that we are not being told.....ministers are still getting big expensive cars and taking useless trips while people are out of work...

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    • Yup says:

      PLP is all words and NO action. PLP has NO respect for good governance. Paula Cox sowed the seeds of destruction when she did Dr. Brown's bidding just so she could become Premier....and now we are reeping what we sow!!!!

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    • Curious says:

      Are you serious.. Obstruction.

      The government reported on the draft statements today. Because there was no quorum at a meeting the Auditor General is crying wolf. This is a joke.

      What is a bigger joke however is the OBAs instant making a mountain out of a molehill. Its not like the Auditor General ISN'T AUDITING statements. To say this is obstruction is foolish.

      To say that the government is hiding embarassing information for an election is a BIIIIIG stretch.

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      • Vote for Me says:

        @ Navin Johnson
        MP Richards clarifies that no members of the Opposition are on the Audit Committee. It would be nice to know who is on the Audit Committee because the allegation of 'Political Obstruction' is a strong indictment (or allegation) of the members of the Committee. This is a common error of the OBA - they tend to make drastic allegations without a basis of fact. Once the facts are determined, there is no attempt to apologize or otherwise clarify their original statements.

        In order for MP Richard's allegation to be true, all memebers that did not show up at the Audit Committee meeting would have had to collude with each other (and the government). Surely, all reasonable readers wil agree that such an action is highly unlikely.

        It is also clear that notwitstanding the lack of a quorum thus far, at some point the Committee will meet and any reports will be submitted to the Legislature and the public. Thus, whilst there has been a delay, the public will eventually get to see and discuss the reports.

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        • navin johnson says:

          we disagree vote for me.....nothing this Government does or does not do would surprise me...the public will see the information only when Government is forced to comply just like the BIU financials if it were not for the OBA they would still not be released...the government lies too easily and makes it common practice....we had to deceive you....ask them about the new "luxury cars" they are ordering.....get it now so you can say you drove a BMW/Audi before you went back to civilian life......

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          • Yup says:

            Hey so what is it?? Incompetency or hiding the truth? Either way, how can anyone support this PLP non-govt. All what PLP wants to do is ride the gravy train.

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          • Vote for Me says:

            @ Navin Johnson
            Another posts indicates that Raymond Madeiros is teh Audit Committee Chair. Given his past as a partner at PwC, I think it is highly unlikely that he has particiapted in any intentional delay of releasing the reports.

            I note the frequent reference to BMW/Audis. It will be interesting to see if this is true. Guess who does not drive??

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            • 32n64w says:

              "I note the frequent reference to BMW/Audis. It will be interesting to see if this is true. Guess who does not drive??"

              The Premier. She has a driver. Perhaps her deputy wants a driver now too?

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  2. What did you expect? says:

    The government doesn't want these reports made public and blocking them via the Audit Committee is a last ditch effort to prevent the public from finding out what's going on.

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    • Yup says:

      True. Also, what is "very odd" is that persons continue to support PLP when they are running us all into the ground.

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  3. longtail says:

    Mr Burt's comments would be more meaningful if he instead addressed the concerns raised by the Heather Matthews. As usual the PLP choose to shoot the messenger and duck the real issue to hand - the sidelining of the Auditor General's report which clearly the PLP do not want us to see.....

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  4. star man says:

    Bermuda's financial circumstances are SO BAD the PLP must cover up the truth, avoid the truth, and spin their lies into untruths. It's bloody scarey out there with no work. Our once thriving Country is dying a slow death right before our eyes, and what does the PLP do?... they order more luxury cars including a top-of-the-line Audi!! While cutting budgets for important social programmes.

    The PLP are self-serving, greedy, and ignorant, and the longer we allow them to mis-govern Bermuda the worse things are gonna get!! If that's possible.

    The PLP are all about the PLP. Can anything save us from these jokers?! Our only hope is the sensible, Put Bermuda First, One Bermuda Alliance.

    Call the election, Paula! Or are you a little frightened of doing that and getting soundly DEFEATED?!

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    • Rick Rock says:

      ? They ordered some luxury cars, including an Audi? I hadn't heard that. What are the details? If it's true, that is pretty disgusting. And amazing, just before an election.

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      • Shaking the Head says:

        If true, not really surprising. How will they get their supporters to vote unless they are taken to the polls in a shiny new BMW or Audi. Proves the Cabinet are looking after themselves as befits such important people.

        "Let them eat cake" sounds familiar

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      • Mad Dawg says:

        BMW's and Audi's. Top of the line. Our Ministers have become used to luxury, and they dont want to give it up, even when the rest of us are in austerity mode.

        As Shaking the Head says, Marie Antoinette said "Let Them Eat Cake", shortly before she was removed from power by an angry populace(and lost her head).

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        • Triangle Drifter says:

          Whatever happened to the days when Premiers drove cars like the rest of us. One of them is legend because he rode to work everyday on his 50cc moped. The car was only used for official functions. Another Premier, when the first BMW was available, only used it for official functions. Again using his personal transport the rest of the time.

          For those too young to remember, who were these Premiers? Why they were UBP Premiers. They were also Premiers when Bermuda had NO DEBT worth talking about. There were also only a few misiterial cars. Again nothing pretentious. Today everyone has a car.

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          • Hmmmmm says:

            The good old days when graft and political interference was dressed up in the disarming clothes of being just like us. These were the same Premiers who owned the companies that supplied cars and supplies to their Government....the good old days. They weren't pretentious because they were raking it in while smiling at you. Don't rewrite history to suggest that corruption started in 1998. It did not and you insult those of us who remember by saying so and you do a disservice to the novices who are flirting with politics these days.

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            • Mad Dawg says:

              Oh right.

              And those days of "Premiers who were raking it in while they smiled at you" ended in 1998, did they?

              Nobody since then has - er - "raked it in", as you put it?

              Until 1998 there was only one GP car. Then suddenly we needed over 200. Why?

              And now the ministers simply must have new Beamers and Audis. Why?

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              • Hmmmmm says:

                Until 1998 there was only one GP car. Then suddenly we needed over 200. Why? Wow. If that's how bad you have it then you are beyond help. In 1998 there were 940 Government vehicles.....

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                • Rick Rock says:

                  He's not talking about "vehicles", he's talking about cars. "Vehicles" includes trucks and work vehicles, obviously. He wasn't talking about those. He cars talking about GP cars.

                  After 1998 there was an unprecedented handing out of government - funded cars by the hundred to PLP politicians, and civil servants. They were scaled back about two years in one of the PLP's great flip flops. But they haven't gotten the message that austerity might include doing away with luxury cars for the political elite of the PLP.

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            • Triangle Drifter says:

              Actually neither of the Premiers had a any solid involment with car dealers. One was a major shareholder in a food company. The other was IB.

              Interesting that you should introduce the word corruption & link it with the PLP government without condeming the practice.

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              • Hmmmmm says:

                Ever heard of Bermuda Motors? Supplier and sole importer of the toyotas that form the lion share of the GP fleet? Let's not forget, the probelm with cars started when Peugeot got a piece of the action...now, who owns them? hmmmmmmm.

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  5. choices says:

    in less than 18 months Team Paula will regret dissing Heather Matthews. just wait and see

    up to now Cog has not audited any of the shady deals.

    too busy with concessions at airport.

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  6. Kinda Lingers says:

    Every day that Cog doesn't call an election, she lessens her chance of victory. Imagine how she must feel now this additional rumour of mismanagement has surfaced. Who knows, maybe soon Bermudians will get pissed off enough to Occupy Cabinet grounds.

    Nah! Never. Bermudians actually get off their lazy backsides and do something like protest in sufficient numbers to make them take notice? Never happen. That's why the previous Premier was able to do what the hell he wanted. He must be laughing now up there with Martha in her Vineyard. Bermudians sat and did nothing. You deserve what you got.

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    • star man says:

      It's a real dilemma... whites will come out to protest, but have not been supported by blacks in numbers, and so are vilified by the PLP hate machine. And there it stops. Just like the PLP wants. Seems like "sticks & stones will hurt my bones, but names will hurt me more." Apparently, most blacks are gutless fraidy-cats.

      Even BIU so-called "management" is damaging the workers' coffers. To the tune of over $3,000,000.00 unaccounted for. And what do the workers do about it? Nothing. Unbelievable!

      Time for BIG change!

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      • Kinda Lingers says:

        Somebody is bound to say your comment is racist but it is absolutely true. Obviously blacks haven't been harmed enough yet to actually do something about it.

        Or perhaps they just don't realize they've been taken..

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      • Nil points says:

        Keep your race based comments put of this article and discussion. There is nothing to do with race in this article. Any use of race based discussion is merely to distract from the matter at hand. Focus people.

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  7. Can't Take It Anymore says:

    Not one solution has yet been proposed.

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    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Is that the best you can come up with? I mean...really???
      The obvious solution, which the PLP has complete control over, is for the audit committee to do its job in a timely manner.

      No new solution need be proposed. what is so difficult to understand about that one?

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    • Mad Dawg says:

      The Audit Committe could actually do it's job. And the Auditor General could be given the information she needs in order to peform an audit. Those are solutions. They're pretty obvious to most of us.

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  8. Truth is killin' me... says:

    Black Bermudians will never stand up for themselves against a black party. Even if the party kicks them in the teeth every day of the week. They will only rise up against a white party "HOUSE MASTER". The PLP are "THE UNTOUCHABLES". This is what years of slavery to our forefathers has brainwashed into us.

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    • Nil points says:

      You are pathetic .... This article has nothing to do with black or white. It has to do with Bermuda. Read it and comment on the Article.

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  9. Hmmmmm says:

    Is the OBA for real ? Let me see if i understand this....a Committee of professionals, all distinguished in their respective fields don't attend meetings in their public service role and this is how they get treated? No wonder no-one wants to get into the arena these days.This is the same Auditor General who was asking for more staff and more time to her regular audit work because she too busy "following the money" elsewhere. Did anyone ask her how long the reports she's mentioning have been completed? Perhaps the Committee has been wiating for her and now that she's ready they won't quite skip to her tune and meet to meet her desired timeline. These people are performing a public service and not sitting there waiting for Reports to drop out of the sky. Now on to the race piece. It is hardly surprising that race enters into this. Chew on this for a while; black Bermudians have a history of getting so little from the public purse to their benefit and have always had to scrape and beg for whatever any Government has provided them that they feel no connection to the money. White people on the other hand feel naturally that this is their money being spent by these black people in this black government. That's why nothing this Government builds, does, achieves is good enough for some people on here. Its just not their money to spend and that's the issue. Unlike some on here, the fact that the Auditor General is black is irrelevant to me. In my experience, black cops will lock you up faster than any white one. Pick the bones out of that. And while you're at it, read Dr. Hodgson's article/letter on why black people care less about open space and environmental issues than white people...same deal. Ain't a lot of open space in Middletown and never has been.

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  10. Copy and Paste says:

    Senator Burt said in a statement: “The latest attempt by the Shadow Minister of Finance to manufacture a political controversy and claim the Government is attempting to hide accounts from the public is disappointing.

    The members of the “Audit committee” are appointed by the Governor and Premier. This helps to minimize and prevent any bias, unfair practices or favoritism of the committee members. As a result the governor should have been consulted regarding the Accountant General concerns. Particularly, if these members fail to meet on a regular basis to conduct the business of the Audit Committee. This process allows for a fair and more balance selection of Committee members. These persons are highly qualified accountants, in most cases. The committee is not solely represented by appointee of the Premier. If this is the case the Accountant General should have made contact with the Governor to voice her concerns, as the next step of action. There is no action on part of the PLP to stop or prevent any reporting of financial audit from occurring. However, if these individuals failed to meet as a group, the Governor should consider removing them or replacing them with persons who are more willing to take their role more seriously.

    As a result of the spin to suggest that the present government is attempting to prevent reporting of financial audit, this is clearly not the case. The procedures, regulations, and protocols that governs the Audit Committee's role prevents such action. The Premier and government’s hands are off to allow the Audit committee to conduct the business they are responsible to do. "If the government interferes this will be political interference".

    The Audit chairpersons, is charged with ensuring that such business is done, and done in a timely fashion. The Premier does not have the power to interfere with the responsibilities and duties of the "Audit committee". This Premier appears more willing to ensure that such business does get done correctly and fast, and that good governance is conducted, rather than attempt not to do what is not right. The Premier will not benefit in hiding or preventing any reports, after all the reports must be done, according to law. Regardless of the outcome or findings in the reports, they must be done, no one can stop that from taking place, except if the Audit Committee fails to do their duty. I think Mr Richard is being somewhat disingenuous in his remarks, for political points and expediency.

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    • Bewildered says:

      You seem to be well connected, so perhaps you could name the members of the Audit Committee, or is that a State secret? Whilst on the subject, rather than continue the game of obscuration, why can't the Premier/Minister of Finance say what steps are being taken to ensure that the Committee sits immediately and deals with the issue? Why the secrecy when the PLP are apparently "committed to transparency and good governance"?

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      • Hmmmmm says:

        Your ignorance is appalling. Public Access to Information cannot fix when someone doesn't know where to look. Boards and Committees are PUBLISHED every year in December/January. Just because you're clueless doesn't make the Government corrupt or information a secret. sickening.Seek and ye shall find.

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        • Bewildered says:

          Well Hmmmmmm, you have great knowledge apparently. I know where to look, so the fact that the Chairman had to be replaced is probably due to his firm being appointed as auditors of the BIU. Wow, there's some similarity between that organisation and the lack of accounts from the Government isn't there? Ottiwell Simmons on the Committee, Larry Mussenden too plus the Premier? Not Political?

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        • Mad Dawg says:

          Hmmmm, since you appear to be an insider, where exactly do we look? I too would like to see who is on the audit committee, because they appear to be holding up the good governance of the country.

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  11. Vote for Me says:

    They say ignorance is bliss… there must be many blissful posters.

    The recent comments about the Auditor General’s letter to the Speaker of the House are not surprising given that we are in the ‘political silly season’ with the inevitable goal of scoring political points at every opportunity.

    The Auditor has complained that the Audit Committee has not met, which impedes her ability to issue reports, in accordance with her governing Act. Out of an assumed degree of frustration, the Auditor wrote to the Speaker to advise that she has considered acting outside of her legislation in order to report to the public.

    The Premier has responded by saying she found it odd that the Auditor did not consult with the Chair of the Audit Committee before sending the letter to the Speaker.

    Following from the Premier’s response which is surely reasonable given that the Audit Committee has a role to play in the finalization of the Auditors reports, the Premier is being accused of all sorts of malice. HOW ABSURD!!

    MP. Richard’s allegations are really a reflection on all of the Audit Committee members’ integrity. Under normal circumstances the Committee comprises professional accountants, lawyers and other members of the public. Has anyone checked to see who the appointees are and whether they are even remotely PLP supporters? Is it just possible that MP Richards has maligned his own supporters? Like it or not, several OBA supporters (former UBP supporters) are prominent members of some of the current government boards!!

    For the record and lest we forget, the Governor has already publicly commended the Premier for recent legislation that strengthens public accountability and good governance.

    Let us all hope that the Audit Committee can meet as required (we can only imagine the pressure they are now under) to allow any reports that have been prepared by the Auditor to be finalised and sent to the House.

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  12. 32n64w says:

    Per the 7 January 2011 Government Notices the following were appointed to the Audit Committee in accordance with the Audit Act 1990:

    Ronald E. Simmons (Chair)
    Pamela Greyson (Deputy Chair)
    Kirk Davis
    Larry Mussenden
    Ottiwell Simmons
    Raymond Jones

    I believe Mr. Simmons resigned as Chair due to a conflict and was replaced with Raymond C. Medeiros on 1 Jul 2011 (but his appointment only lasts until the end of the year).

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    • Vote for Me says:

      I do not know them all personally but I assume they did not collectively collude with each other or the PLP to avoid having a meeting. As a starter, Mr. Madeiros has a highly regarded and long standing partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers (now retired). Mussenden is a practising lawyer and former Attorney General no less!! Perhaps MP Richards will apologise to the group of professionals.

      Thus my earlier point - whilst we are in the political silly season, we must be careful with our comments.

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      • Triangle Drifter says:

        Looking at the list it appears that at least half of them are very solid PLP supporters. One, who I know well, travels frequently on business.

        That leaves the question of who has not been showing up for meetings even when they are on Island?

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  13. navin johnson says:

    I actually think its the committee who should apologize to Mr.Richards.... they could not meet even once?

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    • Hmmmmm says:

      Now that you know who they are the only sin they've committed is not meeting. What happened to "political interference" and "obstruction" ? At your next OBA plenary session, tell your guys to stop embarrassing you with a diet of pure red meat. Its making you all look amateurish and out of your depth.

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      • Bewildered says:

        What an asinine comment, but to be expected. Not meeting is only a sin? Not meeting is what has caused the lack of reports, as confirmed yesterday by The Premier when she released draft Reports because they hadn't gone through the Audit Committee to allow final Reports to be released. You are saying the Premier lied?

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        • Vote for Me says:

          @ bewildered
          The alarmist comments about 'political interference and obstruction' appear to have been disproven. Thus my earlier comment that OBA tend to make serious allegations but do not apologise when they are proven to be false. More importantly, the sensationalist headlines have done their damage.

          Whilst I continue to refer to the 'political silly season' we must be minidful of the impact to our reputation - we should not be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

          As to the impact of not meeting, the Committee has fallen far short of its responsibility and should be encouraged to meet as soon as possible. Once they have commented on the reports, they should be forwarded to the Speaker for distribution as per the legislation.

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          • navin johnson says:

            I guess I am missing your point Vote for me as to the reason they did not meet EVEN ONE TIME!!!!!!! how have the OBA concerns been proven false....and speaking of apologizing when proven wrong how is Zane's apology to Mrs. Jackson coming along? is he still putting the finishing tweaks...??

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        • Hmmmmm says:

          what? I think you're having a Herman Cain moment, aka apples & oranges.

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