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Bowleg hits back on audit findings

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg at a Bahamas Games press conference last year. Photos: Austin Fernander

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg at a Bahamas Games press conference last year. Photos: Austin Fernander

Minister: Every dollar allocated for games spent appropriately

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune News Editor

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

YOUTH, Sports and Culture Minister Mario Bowleg said the government did not overspend on last year’s CARIFTA and Jubilee Games, which cost more than $7m than was allocated, according to audit reports from the Office of the Auditor General.

“Every dollar that was allocated or budgeted for those games was received and spent appropriately,” he said.

He complained that the reports into the events — which highlighted weak internal controls, unauthorised wage increases and circumvented hiring procedures — were released without input from his ministry.

He said he expected the Office of the Auditor General to meet with his team before finalising the report. He expressed bafflement and disappointment in some of the auditor general’s findings.

“If we responded, we would have been able to answer most of these questions favourably,” he said.

Free National Movement leader Michael Pintard countered that all auditor general reports are sent to agency heads for documented feedback before they are laid in Parliament.

 “Not only has the Ministry of Youth & Sports had the audit report for a while, but they had ample time to investigate the matter themselves and seek to hold the relevant parties accountable for any maladministration or malfeasance identified,” he said in a statement. 

Mr Bowleg suggested that overspending claims show a misunderstanding of how the Ministry of Finance operates, saying it is not uncommon for annual budget line items not to reflect the full cost of an event.

“When you hosting an event of this magnitude, if it cost $10m, I shouldn’t expect finance to give me $10m up front,” he said. “Finance will tell you, okay, when is your event? Let’s say your event is 2026. I will have to start preparing finance for that event for the next budget cycle, which is 24-25. Finance will say, okay, you need $10m, here’s what I gon’ do. In the next two months, I give you $2m here, I’ll give you $3m here, and if you see you still need the rest of this money, then we gon’ throw that at you during the year of the games.”

Nonetheless, the first time the government allocated money for last year’s CARIFTA Games was the 2022-2023 budget. 

Mr Bowleg could not speak to many elements of the auditor general’s report, such as the finding that funds were used for reasons unrelated to the games. He said his team must sit with the auditor general to gain further insight.

“I’m not saying he wasn’t right or he wasn’t wrong, but unless we have a conversation for you to pinpoint those things to me, it puts me as the minister responsible and my executive team at a disadvantage because it was tabled and at least me personally didn’t have a chance to review the report to be able to say why you say this or why you say that,” he said.

The audit of the Bahamas Jubilee Games found unauthorised vehicle purchases, salary increases, and misuse of petty cash.

The audit of the CARIFTA Games found that the Local Organisation Committee (LOC) hosted a gospel concert that was unrelated to the games and made only $4000 after spending about $140k.

The audit also concluded that Thomas A Robinson Stadium’s staff increased, with 100 temporary staff assigned tasks unrelated to the games.

“I saw that in the report, and I wondered how could that be agreed, proven that they were hired and were doing work not related to the game,” Mr Bowleg said.

“I know there were a bunch of young men around the stadium at some point helping to assist the National Sports Authority because NSA didn’t have the manpower to break down and do some of the work around the stadium. If that is the case, then it is nonsense to say they were not doing things related to the games.”

Progressive Liberal Party chairman Fred Mitchell thrashed the press for reporting the audits’ findings on Wednesday without Minister Bowleg’s response.

He similarly questioned whether the auditor general sought the ministry’s response, saying the financial watchdog “would know that the principle in Bahamian administrative law is that where an authority proposes to make an adverse finding against an entity or person, the proposed finding ought to be put to the entity or person for that person or entity to respond.”

He said the public should know that audits are “only a snapshot of what the auditor found on the day or days they showed up for the audit.”

“No doubt the auditor general is familiar with governmental budgetary practices,” he said. “A notional figure is often put in a budget to create a line item in anticipation of multi year expenditure. That therefore does not mean that when additional sums are allocated that there was an overspend. Such an allegation or conclusion would be misleading.”

Mr Pintard said the Public Accounts Committee will probe some matters revealed in the auditor general’s report.

Comments

Dawes 1 month ago

Lol so now audits are not that good. If that's the case why does Government want all businesses over $5 million to be audited? Yet again all we are being shown is the lack of intelligence of our leaders. They will say anything now to get out of the problem of today, without realizing that it is contrary to something else they said the other day. Of course the only thing with less intelligence then them is us as we keep voting them back in.

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moncurcool 1 month ago

The Minister is being very disingenuous. His ministry received the draft report from the auditor and did not respond. Says the people were given a deadline and he did not know they did not respond to the deadline. Now he gets caught with his pants down and wants to try throw shade at the auditor.

These jokers really need to go.

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BMW 1 month ago

Why does an audit take over a year???? We need laws for these gangs that govern the country just like the new laws for the street gangs.

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mandela 1 month ago

Corner a snake, it will do anything and everything to slither for cover. Minister Bowleg and his ministry needs further auditing. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Purchasing cars, spending $140,000.×× and getting $4000.×× return, there's definitely a dead rat or rats and we the Bahamian people smell it.

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TalRussell 1 month ago

'R.I.P'---- Ironically, Crown Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg's picture is featured in today's edition of the Tribune's' Obituaries'..--- Good Day!

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2024/a...">http://www.tribune242.com/news/2024/a...

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John 1 month ago

“Every dollar that was allocated or budgeted for those games was received and spent appropriately,” he said.. Unless Mario Bowleg is first willing to prove that the events were not over budgeted by millions of dollars, someone should advise him to remain quiet until the appropriate time. Secondly when your mummy used to send you to the store with $20 and tell you to only spend $10, she ain’t want hear what you spent the other $10 on, she wann know why you spent it without her permission? So why did you spend millions of the people’s money without permission?

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TalRussell 1 month ago

@ComradeJohn, thirdly, someone should've advised you. --- After you return from the Chinese corner store. --- Your momma, gonna' administer you one old-fashioned of a tamarind tree ass whippin'. --- Yes?

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John 1 month ago

Well it is tamarind ‘switch, not tamarind ‘tree’. That’s when she would put several tender branches together to make the switch. Those branches had a way of wrapping themselves around your legs or arms and leaving welts that itched for days. But unlike getting beaten with a ‘tree’ as in the days of slavery. They left no permanent injury. And we were not allowed to shop at the Chinese. Even though they may have been closer or cheaper there was the stigma of buying food or grocery from the Chinese. And if you were caught going there when you were sent elsewhere, that called for more tamarind switches.

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John 1 month ago

Not at all knocking sports and the sporting events or even the minister ( at this time). No amount of money ( ok within limits) government spends on youth, sports and community development is enough considering the alternatives young people are faced with and considering the great successes this country has been achieving in all levels of sports. And from all accounts there’s no need to doubt the credibility of the minister. Maybe he is in too deep with his lack of experience and these large budgets and got taken advantage of?

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pt_90 1 month ago

Next stop the baseball stadium. If you think 12m on the world relays is alot...

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John 1 month ago

Don’t forget Minnis allowed the stadium to just sit there, unbothered. Was paying the contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars for their equipment sitting idle for over three years.

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pt_90 1 month ago

Even more reason we need to get a full audit of 16m-18m to 21m-24 to 27m + 31m to complete. If they told you it was 56m to complete imagine how much more it ended up costing. Then you add the interest to pay for it over the next 30 years. Then in the next 10 years they'll say it needs 20m to an overhaul due to no maintenance and that will come with interest.

Another reason it needs an audit: Govt ministers kept claiming its vital for sports tourism but never show any docs on what plans they have to actually return the treasury the likely 80m in total costs (construction, overruns, maintenance, interest on debt) and the costs of whatever events.

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rosiepi 1 month ago

PLP Chair Mitchell is angry that the press didn’t wait for Bowleg’s response? Would it have been any different, made any difference to the findings of malfeasance?

And an audit “is just a snapshot of what the auditor found on that day or days..” So what, the information would be different the next day? The money missing would suddenly appear? Please! And as for Mitchell calling out the financial watchdog out for ignoring “the principle of administrative law in the Bahamas, Mitchell himself broke the rule book a thousand times over.

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hrysippus 1 month ago

My sartorial piece of doggerel comment got deleted. This is probably a good thing, might have kept me out of court for libel Shame though, I was a lil bit pleased wit that one.

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