(CNS): The former chief of staff in the premier’s office when McKeeva Bush was at the helm of the last UDP government has denied that the Nation Building Fund was not properly managed. Leonard Dilbert condemned the findings of the Office of the Auditor General and claimed he was not given a chance to answer the allegations made about the controversial fund. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee last week, he was reluctant to answer direct questions but attempted to defend his own role in how public cash was handed out.
Dilbert said he did not intend to answer any questions because the report did not deserve that. Nevertheless, he did address some of the questions asked of him before he told the committee that he was not able to continue as he did not have the benefit of documentation to defend his position.
Before leaving, he maintained that there had been a “rigorous process”. But while admitting to having been “intimately involved”, even interviewing some applicants himself, he also claimed that he did not directly manage the day to day details. He admitted to getting things wrong when pressed by PAC members but vehemently denied that the process had been badly managed.
Dilbert, who has since retired from the civil service, berated the audit office for never interviewing him, the manager responsible for the fund.
Explaining how government budgets were dealt with at the time, he said that cash given to ministries via a transfer payments, as was the case with the NBF, was managed differently and that politicians had a very direct say in how that public money should be spent.
Dilbert told PAC that ministers had a “wide ambit to participate in the decision making process as far as the distribution of those payments were concerned”, which “was part of the culture”. He said that at the time, the Public Management and Finance Law did not detail how transfer payments were made and it was only recently that standards were being created to manage this type of payment.
The former senior public servant said he was mentioned nine times in the OAG report as acting outside of the law and his former political boss, McKeeva Bush, was mentioned 12 times, which he said has yet to be proved. He said he did not know where to begin to say how wrong the report was and claimed documents did exist to support what happened.
Dilbert said the report had insulted him “roundly”, adding that after 25 years of service his integrity had never come into question until this report, where the allegations were hanging over his head for seven months.
He denied that scholarship applicants were handpicked by him or the premier without any supporting criteria and applications. In the first instance the process was rudimentary but the applicants had to write letters which went to the premier. Dilbert admitted that he and Bush were involved in the decision making process but to the best of his knowledge, the letters were passed to staff assigned to review them. The staff also reviewed the institutions and monitored the students’ progress once they went to school, he said, adding that all of this was on file.
Miller asked if those documents existed and if Dilbert denied the other evidence in the report that had been accepted by the government, which highlighted many problems. Dilbert said that in order to respond to the report he would need to go through it line by line and he did not have inclination to do that.
As members grilled Dilbert, he denied mismanagement but said he was never given a chance to respond to the audit because the deputy governor ignored his letters. He said he could not respond to more questions as he was at a disadvantage because he did not have the records and was never involved in the audit.