EDITORIAL: Breach of duty
The Office of Auditor General is an important office established under the Constitution of this country. It is so important that it is protected under the Constitution in a manner similar to that of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Part of the remit of this position is to carry out audits on the various Government departments that are involved in the spending of public funds. If these matters are not well known, that does not mean that they are not important, because they are vitally important to the idea of accountability of the departments of Government for the funds that are spent.
Reports issued by the Auditor General are therefore important, and ought to be treated with the utmost respect by our Parliament and by the accounting officers of the various Government departments.
It simply will not do to have reports issued year after year containing a litany of shortcomings on the part of departments that have deviated from good accounting practices.
Not only does it look as if the departments are not taking the Auditor General’s reports seriously, but it represents a serious breach of duty to the public, who are, after all, the employers of every person in the Public Service, whose salaries are perforce paid by the taxes collected for these and other purposes.
Coupled with the failure of some departments to produce answers to the questions posed by the Auditor General and his staff, the situation cries out for sanctions to be visited upon those public employees who may be guilty of not cooperating as they should in providing critical information to enable the Auditor General and his department to perform their significant public duties.
The current report dealing with the year 2013/2014 is even more than normally disturbing since it details irregularities and shortcomings of alarming proportions with the major revenue collection agencies.
We simply cannot, as a developing nation, contemplate the payment out of the Treasury of amounts not in fact due to the persons to whom the payments were sent. It is remarkable that some Barbadians were honest enough to return the cheques to the department. While this public-spirited action was honest and commendable, it should not have been necessary.
The introduction of some degree of austerity does not have to breed this kind of carelessness and the sheer incompetence across departments which are so much an unfortunate aspect of recent Auditor General’s reports. It has been this way for years.
Both public servants and the politicians have vested interests in ensuring that the system works properly. Public officers actually manage the systems and the politicians are accountable to the public for its due administration.
Together they have a duty to make sure that we are not short-changed.