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Ministers Fail To Table Audits

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

CABINET ministers responsible for at least six quasi-government institutions and agencies have failed to table audit reports, creating a lapse in the public record that contravenes the law.

An investigation by The Tribune revealed that its been years since an audit report has been tabled in Parliament for institutions like the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), the Water & Sewage Corporation, the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation, the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMA), the College of the Bahamas and the Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas, according to Parliamentary records.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the institutions haven’t had audits conducted, but it may mean that in some cases the ministers responsible for those institutions haven’t tabled the audits as required.  

Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe has responsibilty for the Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas, and Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez has the Public Hospitals Authority in his cabinet portfolio.

Yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said he would look into the matter while Dr Gomez referred The Tribune’s questions to Frank Smith, chairman of the PHA Board and audit committee.

“The board really initiates audits,” Dr Gomez said, adding: “I’m not sure it’s overdue.”

In fact, PHA audits for multiple years are long overdue and the PHA Act puts significant responsibility on the minister of health when it comes to issues relating to audits.

When contacted, Herbert Brown, director of PHA, said: “All of the audits (for the past five years) have been done. But I can’t speak to why they haven’t been tabled. The auditors have confirmed that 2015 audits will be ready by June.”

The Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas’ Financial Controller echoed this sentiment.

“We get (the audits) approved by the board and we pass them on to the ministry,” he said. “It’s up to them to actually table them.”

On the other hand, Glenn Lavell, General Manager of the Water & Sewage Corporation, said it is his corporation’s fault that no audit has been tabled since 2011.

“That’s totally our fault,” he said when contacted. “We are changing the format of our annual reports because we are trying to put more information in the reports as to where the company is going. So when someone picks them up, they would have a better idea of how the company is going. The financial statements are completed. We haven’t submitted it yet to the ministry.

Mr Lavell said: “We hope to submit it along with the report for 2012, 2013 and 2014 by July at the latest. This is not the way we would’ve liked it to happen, but that’s the way it has happened.”

Attempts to reach Environment & Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett and National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage to find out why it’s been years since audits have been tabled for the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) and the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation were not successful up to press time yesterday.

Records show that financial statements for the BMC were consistently tabled under the former Ingraham Administration, but have not been tabled since.

It’s unclear when was the last time an audit for the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation has been tabled, however.

The Tribune reported last year that the College of the Bahamas’ (COB) failure to conduct audits meant that the institution could not withdraw funds from a more than $30m loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) that was designed to aid in its transition to university.

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said recently that the college will be up-to-date with its audits by this summer.

With no Freedom of Information Act in place, the tabling of audit reports is one of the few accountability measures Bahamians can use to independently assess the fiscal performance of government departments and institutions.

Recent reports by Auditor-General Terrance Bastian into the Road Traffic Department and the Department of Social Services have highlighted failure to adhere to regulations in some government institutions, resulting in fraud and loss of revenue.

Mr Bastian has the power to audit government departments and ministries at his own discretion, although he has frequently complained that insufficient funding handicaps his work.  

He does not, however, have the power to initiate audits into other types of government related institutions.

Legislation for most of those institutions mandates that the relevant minister hires an auditor every year to audit the agencies and then tables a report about them in Parliament.

As an example, the Water & Sewage Corporation Act reads: “After the end of each financial year as soon as the accounts of the Corporation has been audited, the Corporation shall cause a copy of the statement of account to be transmitted to the minister together with a copy of any report made by the auditors on that statement or on the accounts of the Corporation.

It continues: “The minister shall cause a copy of every such statement and report to be laid on the table of both Houses of Parliament.”

Comments

sheeprunner12 3 years, 4 months ago

Lack of political oversight by Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Directors or Chairmen allows for no accountability, slackness, graft and cronyism to flourish .... broken system

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Honestman 3 years, 4 months ago

There is little hope for the country when politicians continually break the laws they themselves established. In addition to the failure of Ministers to present audit reports, we have other Ministers blatantly disregarding Financial Disclosure requirements. Is it any wonder that corruption is rife throughout The Bahamas? Politicians have no respect for the electorate who stupidly, blindly continue to elect them. Frankly, we get what we deserve.

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sangeej 3 years, 4 months ago

Nobody is Surprised, these people has no respect for the Bahamian People.

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Sickened 3 years, 4 months ago

The PLP are thieves, cheats and liars!

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SP 3 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, however, you conveniently forgot to mention the FNM are equally collaborating thieves, cheats and liars proven by their seeming inability to catch or expose the PLP thieves, cheats and liars!

So much blatant stealing of 100's of $Millions all around us and NOBODY is ever caught.

Alternatively, if your 1 hour late with VAT payment your fined! Vote these pirate jackass's OUT of our lives!

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CatIslandBoy 3 years, 4 months ago

How else can these crooks steal from their cookie jar? Of course, the delayed audits and other neglect of accountability provisions under the law, allows them to obfuscate, cover their tracks, and cast blame. I have never seen a bunch of lying, thieving crooks, with complete disregard and utter contempt for the law, masquerading as a government anywhere else in the world. Heaven help my poor country!

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asiseeit 3 years, 4 months ago

These politicians could not manage to wipe their ass without getting nanny on their hands, that is their skill level as far as MANAGEMENT goes. Why we elect governments is beyond me as all they do is hurt our country and cause the Bahamian people pain and suffering. The Government of The Bahamas is the problem, they are killing our country. One day the Bahamian people will figure this out and rise up.

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Economist 3 years, 4 months ago

All the legislation should be amended REQURING the Minister responsible to table the Audit within 60 days of its receipt.

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sheeprunner12 3 years, 4 months ago

The Auditor General should have the power to present these independent audits to the House Speaker directly and call a press conference to give his findings on each audit ........ Why should a Minister be able to muzzle the Auditor General by keeping the audits of their ministries, agencies, departments or boards silent until the Minister chooses to release them????????? ............. this is one ass-backwards system designed to protect crooked politicians

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SP 3 years, 4 months ago

The whole system is designed by pirates to protect piracy

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EasternGate 3 years, 4 months ago

Too late, we are a failed state. More reason to kill the referendum dead, dead, dead!

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Publius 3 years, 3 months ago

Happens every time this version of the PLP is in. And has the Opposition ever called for one of these audits to be tabled? No. Why? #1 - many of them know zero about government (though they lust for it) and so they don't even know about these audits or that they should be tabled and #2 - the others could not care less, will do the same thing if given the chance and are singularly concerned about their political positions over the nation and its people.

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viewersmatters 3 years, 3 months ago

agreed, why haven't the DNA FNM and other independent parties haven't brought the pressure on the Government or made a public statement long time ago. Everyone wants power but no one want to work honestly for it

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viewersmatters 3 years, 3 months ago

this so no surprise once again the PLP showing that rules, laws and regulations doesnt exist for them to follow. And for some reason the ministers never know whats going on and always directing the fault to a next direction but let anyone highlight the government wrong doing, within a second of that time the government will find time and work hard to dig up personal files and release them into the house without hesitation.

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