The following statement was issued today (Oct 3) by Opposition Leader Cole Simons – One Bermuda Alliance…
The news that the unaudited financial statements of the Government and several quangos has been outstanding for years is unsettling for the One Bermuda Alliance and the entire country. Recent comments made in the House of Assembly this past week highlighting the challenges and knock-on effect of producing audited financial statements, which are long overdue.
The issue of audited financial statements has been a real ongoing problem and has not been effectively addressed by the Ministry of Finance and the other government departments and agencies.
The One Bermuda Alliance believes that it is unacceptable to lay all of the blame at the feet of the Auditor General.
For many years, the Auditor General has been challenged by not having adequate resources and staff, which could have been addressed with the stroke of a pen by the Minister of Finances. Considering this deficiency, she and previous AGs prevailed and did the best that they could to meet the prescribed deadlines by outsourcing some functions to third party audit and accounting firms.
When COVID-19 uncorked itself in Bermuda, the resource challenges were further exacerbated, and the department, like most businesses, fell behind in meeting their performance targets. Its legacy remains today which has resulted in a delay of the production of several audited financial statements.
What the public may not know, is that the auditing process cannot be started and completed without a set of completed financial statements. To hear the Auditor General state that there are 130 years of outstanding public body financial statements is abominable and outrageous.
According to the stated statistics, the Minister of Finance is responsible for 42% of the outstanding statements. Further, the Minister of Finance is the official custodian of Bermuda’s public purse, and he should hang his head in shame.
It is ironic that the responsibility for these audit challenges, and the 100 plus financial statements arose under the leadership of the two PLP Finance Ministers, both of whom are vying to become Premier of Bermuda later this month.
As the Auditor General indicated, it is a shame that the Ministers of Finance were spending public money on national transactions and programs without a clear assessment of the impact on the financial budgets, and without having a full financial picture of the ministries or government agencies in question as in many cases financial statements were incomplete. From the PLP perspective, basic accounting standards and guidelines do not matter.
It is shameful that the Minister of Finance is spending his energy and resources trying to solidify and cement his role as the Premier of our country when he could have provided resources and attention to remediating the financial statements in arrears and could have addressed the deficiencies with the CFO’s and Controllers responsible for the relevant government departments and government agencies. Where is the accountability?
It is also unforgivable that for over 11 years, both PLP Ministers of Finance, with their vast experience were unable to address the arrears found in:
The Consolidated Assets funds;
The Contributory Pension Fund;
The Public Service Superannuation Fund;
The Ministers and Members of the Legislature Pension Plan;
The Bermuda Deposit Insurance Fund;
The Government Borrowing and Sinking Fund; and
The Government Reserves fund to name a few.
As is it felt by all of us, we are living in tough times and we must run a tight ship, whether in government or within our personal affairs.
This undisciplined financial administration by the custodian of Bermuda’s public funds must stop. The Minister of Finance must operate Bermuda’s finances in accordance with best practices, Bermuda’s constitution, and in a sustainable manner which will benefit all of Bermuda.