Prosecute, says ex-PAC boss
(CNS): The former chair of the Public Accounts Committee has called for those responsible for the persistent failure in government to account for the spending of some $2 billion of public money to be prosecuted. Ezzard Miller said that the latest report from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) reveals that, despite every assistance rendered to the various government entities, the results of the update on public accounting show nothing has really changed. The independent member, who chaired the parliamentary committee for the first two years of this current administration, called the situation a “shambles” and said the report was no different from the five that had preceded it.
“It’s like the PAC was talking to empty chairs,” Miller told CNS following the publication of a report from Alastair Swarbrick’s office regarding the state of government’s financial accountability to the taxpayer.
Prior to his resignation from the committee, following what he described as the persistent failure of the UDP members to turn up for meetings, Miller had warned senior civil servants responsible for producing government accounts that he would be seeking to prosecute those who failed to comply with the Public Management and Finance Law after they had been given numerous opportunities to do so.
However, he said the Attorney General’s Chambers did not seem to have the will to go forward nor was anyone sure exactly who under the law was responsible. With no one accountable, Miller said, there has been no impetus to address the problem.
Despite the claims by the premier that he had presided over an improvement in public accounting, government has still failed to produce consolidated accounts for 2010/11 that can be audited and are unlikely to be able to produce any meaningful account for the 2011/12 year either.
“During the last committee meeting I held I warned the chief officers and financial officers that there was provision under the law for them to be prosecuted and I believe that unless someone is held to account the public will never see a set of accounts telling them what government has done with their money.”
Miller said nothing had changed and it was unacceptable that $2 billion could remain unaccounted for.
“The situation is terrible and the report reveals that one of the worst offenders is the finance, tourism and development ministry,” Miller said. Despite breaking that ministry down there are still issues with the accounts for the premier’s areas of responsibility. “The fact that the finance ministry is one of the worst offenders speaks volumes. The premier’s ministry should be setting the example. This is an appalling state of affairs.”
The most problematic ministry, however, is the one presided over by the deputy premier. Audits for the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands & Agriculture continue to be disclaimed, which means Swarbrick’s team was not given enough information to work with and could not complete an audit.
As a result of the persistent failure, the independent member said the electorate would not see any sets of consolidated accounts relating to government finances during an entire administration before another election.
Miller said the latest report by Alastair Swarbrick demonstrates that almost none of the various recommendations that the audit office and PAC has made over the last three years have been implemented and the minor improvements the auditor’s office has seen have not translated into any kind of meaningful information for the voting public and taxpayers.
In the report Swarbrick points to an improvement in the timeliness of the accounts being delivered to his office with most of the government entities obligated to produce reports meeting the statutory deadline. However, in many cases Swarbrick said, information is still missing, which means his office cannot offer unqualified opinions. This has had a knock-on effect on the consolidated accounts, and despite claims that it would produce consolidated accounts for 2010/11, government will not meet that commitment.
The entire public sector financial statements are meant to report all of government’s financial activity in a given fiscal year and is one of the most important documents an administration should produce in order to meet standards of good governance and transparency.
|OAG Financial & Performance Reporting Update October 2012.pdf||467.83 KB|
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