By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has criticised Cabinet ministers who have failed to table audits of government institutions as required by law, saying the issue highlights the need for greater accountability measures in government.
Dr Minnis was responding to revelations in a Tribune article last week about gaps in the public record concerning audits of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), the Water & Sewerage Corporation (WSC), the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation, the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC), the College of the Bahamas (COB) and the Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas.
“This Government has shown a wanton disregard for transparency, accountability and the rule of law,” Dr Minnis said on Friday. “So while disappointing, unfortunately it is not surprising that several institutions and agencies of this government have repeatedly failed to table their annual financial audits as is required by law.”
“The law requiring annual audits of government expenditures is there so as to provide transparency and accountability from every level of government. But we can have neither when this government operates in the shadows and all but ignores the law. How are the people to know what their government is doing?”
The tabling of audits is one of the few accountability measures Bahamians can use to independently assess the fiscal performance of government departments and institutions.
Under the former Ingraham Administration, gaps were at times allowed to exist in the public record concerning audits of institutions as well.
Nonetheless, Dr Minnis said: “Clearly, both in action and in their words, the PLP has shown it does not want Bahamians empowered to hold this Government accountable. How can these six ministers continue to be allowed to act outside the laws?
“The Auditor General’s reports on the Department of Social Services and the Road Traffic Department confirm that corruption has seeped into every level of government under this PLP government. So what are the people to conclude when they learn that ministers have not tabled audits for years as is required? What are they hiding from the public? Where is the accountability?
“Under the next FNM government, audits will be completed and tabled when they are supposed to. We will bring true leadership – which requires transparency and accountability – back to The Bahamas.”
Failure to table audits annually does not necessarily mean that audits weren’t conducted. Furthermore, in at least one instance - the BMC - the lack of up-to-date audits is partly because the corporation took on the task of updating its audits for the years when the Ingraham Administration was in office and did not have them conducted.
PHA audits have been the subject of much attention in the past. Managing Director Herbert Brown told The Tribune last week that audits for the PHA have been completed.
He could not, however, say why Health Minister Perry Gomez has not tabled them.
Glenn Lavell, general manager of the WSC, said it’s his corporation’s fault why audits haven’t been tabled over the past several years. He said the WSC has been in the midst of changing the way it conducts its audits.
National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage, who has responsibility for the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation, acknowledged on Friday that audits for the corporation have not been tabled. He said there have been “difficulties” involving the auditors, adding that he would address the matter in the future.
COB is in the process of getting up-to-date with its audits, with Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald saying recently that they will be ready by September.
As for the BMC, Environment & Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett has said that a delay in the tabling of audits for recent years is because the organisation is finding a new company to conduct its audits after the head of the previous company passed away. The 2013 audit, he said, is before Cabinet waiting approval to be tabled.