Minister says AG’s report illustrates need for constitutional change

| 08/08/2008

Behind closed doors the government has taken everyone to task, including the Governor who has ultimate responsibility for the civil service, about the failure of government companies to meet their obligations under the Public Management Finance Law, as revealed in Auditor General Dan Duguay’s report, The State of Financial Accountability Reporting, Minister Alden McLaughlin said. He noted that the report revealed a very serious issue, but in a constitutional system where the elected government has no authority over the senior officers in ministries and where the Financial Secretary is not an elected member, it is difficult for the elected government to do anything other than complain about the lack of performance of civil servants, the minister said.

“We are very unhappy about the state of affairs. While we understand some of the reason for the delays as the news system requires a great deal more work, they are reasons not excuses for the delay,” he said, adding that the reason government has not said much on this so far was because the Governor is ultimately responsible and they could do very little.

“Some of the proposed constitutional changes would address this. If and when we get a Minister of Finance who is an elected individual, I think the situation would be quite different, the elected government would not be able to say it wasn’t responsible because it would have direct responsibility,” he said. No matter which government was in office, until the Constitution is changed, elected members can’t force the issue, he added.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that the delays were down to a multitude of reasons and that the whole affair was a long story, but he was certain that with the release of the report and the flurry of activity that has followed it, the accounts would soon get done .

“The sad part about all of this process is that the majority of those reports now are worth nothing more than the paper they will be written on,” he said. “Six months after the reports are completed they bear no relevance, so when you are three or four years behind you are just complying with the law. The reports won’t help any government form policy.”

He said that the best thing was to get on track and then keep on track so the documents would be relevant. In a written statement, the LoGB said that after the most recent correspondence with the Auditor’s Office, the government fully expected that the remaining government agencies would have the audit of their 2004/05 annual reports completed by the end of September, and the next step would be tabling them in the Legislative Assembly.

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