Column: Get Govt Finances & Reporting In Order

November 10, 2020 | 1 Comment

[Opinion column written by Karen Hodgkins]

It seems that the cycle of qualified reports of Government departments never ends. Government Auditor General after Auditor General continues to tell the same story. Lack of reporting of funds spent by the government and where the money went.

How can we trust the current Government with our taxes, and presumably more taxes to come, if they do not get spending and reporting under control?

The tax revenue taken from people should be spent wisely. We all work hard for our money. We expect our Government to spend it carefully and not frivolously.

Time and time again the private sector and small businesses are expected to support a Government which continues to spend as if it can borrow money forever.

Don’t we have a right to say enough is enough? The people are tired of paying for a Government that overspends and lacks proper financial reporting.

A business or even the finances of a household cannot run like this. Business and households must control spending and increase revenue in order to survive. If we continue to spend more than we earn, we end up bankrupt.

Look at these remarks by the Auditor General:

She said “one qualified audit opinion was “unfortunately” for the financial statements of Government’s Consolidated Fund for the end of the 2017/18 financial year”

How can we have a qualified audit for the consolidated fund? This is basically the main bank account of the Government where all public money is deposited. How can we not have adequate reporting?

And this:

Ms Thomas said: “The matters, all of which have been discussed in my previous annual reports, show that Government is continuing to make decisions without knowing the combined financial position of all the organizations that make up the Government reporting entity.”

How can a Government make decisions without knowing its overall financial position? This has to be a joke?

She added: “Further, there are no effective, comprehensive long-term plans for reducing the annual and accumulated deficits or the associated debt, the unfunded liabilities of its major pension plans or the size of taxpayer indebtedness, all of which continue to grow unsustainably.”

Why are we still not addressing the debt? Why are there no plans for reducing costs, why are we not restructuring departments to make them more efficient as the SAGE report recommended?

It seems there is no political will to make sure the financial errors of the past do not reoccur.

Ms. Thomas added that her office continued to ask for modernization of the Audit Act 1990. She said that the proposal got support from a Parliamentary standing committee in 2016 and a Bill was drafted more than two years ago. But she added there was “no will to advance”.

If there is better legislation that is needed to modernize the Audit Act 1990, then why hasn’t it been passed? The Auditor General has been asking for this for 4 years. It was approved by a committee 2 years ago. You would believe it should be a priority considering the missing reports and missing funds from the Government…the recent $800,000 springs to my mind and all the other people that have walked away with our money.

Yes, “our money” because it is the people’s hard-earned money that is taxed and given away or spent without proper reporting.

It is ironic that the Government expects all of us to pay our taxes, parking tickets, payroll tax, land tax, car tax, keep our financial reporting in order, however, the Government can keep having audit reports that are incomplete and missing data.

It is time for the Government to lead by example and get its financial reporting and debt under control.

- Karen Hodgkins was a candidate for the OBA in the recent election, and is a former OBA Executive Secretary, Deputy Chair and Woman’s Caucus Chair.

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  1. A Bermudian says:

    The Auditor General’s report should be ringing alarm bells for everyone. This is not a partisan issue directed against the PLP. Compliance with financial reporting and controlling debt is an essential requirement no matter which party is leading the country. It affects every single one of us, and we cannot become complacent about ignoring the repeated calls to improve cash controls, follow the standard financial protocols and report accurately and completely.

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