THE role of the Auditor General is not an easy one – but it is straightforward in what he or she is supposed to do. The Auditor General is required to examine and inquire into the accounts of government.
The Auditor General is a watchdog, set to guard our public monies from abuse, to independently assess the efficiency of government spending and the fairness of government finances. It is a role detailed in the Constitution of the country (Section 136, for anyone who wishes to look it up). It is no small matter.
Who then feels they have the right to ignore the requests of the Auditor General, presently Terrance Bastian, when he asks for documents and files?
This appears to be the case – and worse, it’s not just one person or two people, but involving both individuals (plural) and institutions.
Mr Bastian says his staff’s work “continues to be impeded” by officials in several ministries and departments.
Let us be clear. Mr Bastian is a public servant. The people he is asking for documents are also public servants. They have no place to say no to him, they work for us, not for any higher power that would allow them to reject his requests.
Mr Bastian says that such obstruction both violates the law, and helps public officials evade accountability for the waste and mismanagement of funds.
These people plainly are not acting as public servants – they should be drummed out of their posts.
What do they have to hide? What makes them think they have the right to say no to the auditor? Who are they protecting?
Mr Bastian, regrettably, does not name those who have been obstructive – which is a shame, because perhaps a spot of bright daylight might make them more compliant.
They should be named. More, if they have indeed violated the Financial Administration and Audit Act 2010, they are breaking the law and should be treated accordingly. Even if that means being brought to court.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mr Bastian is being asked to operate with one hand tied behind his back because of a shortage of staff.
There has been some contract hiring and outsourcing, but the office should be fully and properly funded and staffed.
This office exists to protect our money. It exists to make sure our funds aren’t frittered away or misappropriated. It shows us the sectors that are bursting their budgets, or not accounting for funds properly. In short, it exists to protect you. Anyone ignoring it is ignoring you. Why should the funding of government be hidden from you, from any of us?
The answer is that it shouldn’t, and the very first step for any government committed to transparency should be to hand over the documents it is asked for. That should change, right now.
The news of six more confirmed deaths from COVID-19 is sobering. Although it is the reclassification of deaths from August and September, it is a reminder that we should still be taking the virus seriously.
The emergence of the Omicron variant is a cause for concern, if not panic while the data continues to be gathered about the new variant’s effects and how easily it is transmitted. There may be a knock-on effect soon on travel too, with the US considering new limitations.
Even if the US does clamp down on travel, it is likely given how far the variant has spread already that we may well have to deal with it sooner or later as well.
Nearly 700 have died of COVID-19 in The Bahamas already, we can’t take chances as we face the risk of adding to that.
We know what we have to do. We seem to have come through the third wave, and we need to keep being disciplined. You know what that means – social distance, wearing masks, using sanitiser. The hardest thing will be avoiding large gatherings as we head into Christmas – but be careful, keep your distance as best you can, and be safe. Not just for your sake, but for your family and friends. It’s not over.