The Bermuda Land Development Company (BLDC) was placed under the parliamentary microscope on Friday, when Public Works Minister Colonel David Burch, told MPs that the company has yet to submit the last audited financial report carried out six years ago.
In his first Ministerial Statement as a newly elected Member of Parliament, Public Works Minister Colonel David Burch rose to inform the Lower House, and the public about the current state of affairs at the BLDC “upon assuming office”.
“You will know that there are two shareholders of the Company, the Ministers of Finance and Public Works and I can report that the share transfer from the former ministers to the current ones went smoothly. Sadly, that is all that has gone smoothly,” said Col Burch.
He noted that the last audited accounts tabled at a BLDC Annual General Meeting “are the audited accounts for the year ending March 31, 2009. “The auditing of the 2010 ad 2011 accounts have recently been completed by the Office of the Auditor General,” he said. But BLDC’s management “has since 2011 requested the auditing process be sped up, even offering to pay additional costs to have the audits outsourced, without success,” he said.
“To be clear – this statement is in no way criticism of the Board or staff of the BLDC – who in the face of complete irresponsibility by their shareholders tried as best they could to comply with the law,” said the Minister.
Once informed of the situation, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, the other shareholder, he said: “We inquired of the remedy to this situation and were advised that a sanction is required from the Registrar of Companies for those years in which there are no audited financial statements.
“Such a sanction was applied for and the Registrar of Companies saw fit on August 24th to confer such an Order – contingent upon the said General Meeting being held and a copy of the Minutes being filed with the Registrar within three months.
“I do not know what the Registrar of Companies thinks of this matter, but I do know that the oversight provided by the then Government was not oversight all,” said Col Burch. “I can confirm that the current shareholders will, with a sense of urgency, take the necessary steps to bring the company fully in compliance with the Company’s Act in accordance with the sanction granted from the Registrar of Companies,” he added.
Said Col Burch: “This is a serious breach of financial regulations and I am astounded by the lack of oversight by the previous shareholders but…I am equally astounded at the inaction of the Office of the Auditor General – who many will recall quite doggedly went after this Party when we were previously in government but have act doubly reckless in this regard by not conducting audits over five years and then incredibly refusing to allow the Company to seek redress from an outside auditing firm.
“I trust that the Parliamentary oversight committee of this office will conduct a full investigation,” he said.
There was a loud round of foot stomping by his colleagues at the end of his statement, with a round of applause from the public gallery that prompted a warning from the new Speaker of the House, Dennis Lister, who said clapping is not allowed, and that unless they sit quietly, to listen silently to the proceedings, they will be escorted out of the chamber.
In closing, as Minister of Public Works, Col Burch said: “This is a part of my duty that I do not enjoy, but as you will be aware all Government departments and entities must report to this House, whether through their Ministers – or by the tabling of annual audited financial statements.
“In fact, it is our responsibility as Ministers to report to this place…Because this House has oversight of all Government expenditure and because the then Government was so ‘gung ho’ on following every item of previous Government expenditure, I was more than a little surprised to discover that under their watch, there is a Government entity that has not met the requirements of the Companies Act 1981.”
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