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EDITORIAL: Need for proper reporting


EDITORIAL: Need for proper reporting

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THE RECENT DISCLOSURES concerning the non-performance of Caves of Barbados as a business proposition, is the kind of scenario which will give any minister of finance nightmares.

The efficient management of public finances cannot withstand that kind of onslaught, and it is little wonder that sometimes special audits of some public entities are ordered, since taxpayers’ money cannot be allowed to suffer the indignity of less than careful management and oversight.

It is almost unthinkable but it happens to be true that the accounts of the agency, which runs Harrison’s Cave, have not been audited since 2003. Surely there must be mechanisms within the structure of our system of government to nip these matters in the bud.

We are aware that there are arguments about problems within the public finance system, but accounting for the pennies and dollars allocated to a public authority is anther kettle of fish.

There can be no argument that so long as money has been allocated and has been received and spent, that there must be a clear and proper data trail accounting for every cent, or as near thereto as possible.

We are grateful that the parliamentary channels are still available for the ventilation of such financial curiosities, but now that the disclosure has been made, there has to be the fullest possible engagement with the public on this issue.

At a time when there is a good deal of talk about privatisation, we must ask if it is only through privatisation that financial systems will work.

Our view is that proper systems can work in both the public and private sectors, but systems do not operate in vacuums. The human element is critical if any system is to serve its purpose, and whatever else is done, there has to be some review and analysis of what has gone wrong at the Cave.

Such analysis would be more than useful in arming the authorities with such further techniques, stratagems and policies to prevent the nightmare that appears to have descended upon the tourist attraction.

It cannot be in the public interest for any continuation of this situation at the Cave or a similar episode in any other statutory authority.

It seems clear that while Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee represents a mechanism for calling these events to public scrutiny, some additional periodic oversight, perhaps on a quarterly basis, might be required, with stringent penalties for non-observance of financial best practices by public corporations.

From even cursory glance at assertions made by some of those formerly associated with the Cave, it seems that questions were being raised by some insiders about the unquiet state of affairs at the authority.

It is precisely because of this situation that we call for some additional and more frequent reporting of a public nature.

The glare of public scrutiny can often be the most persuasive stick to be held over the heads of some functionaries.

It is shocking, to say the least, that it appears that for a decade, a publicly funded enterprise can draw funding year after year and the public has only now realised that for that length of time, the cancer of no audit has been allowed to spread.

It is time to urgently review the specifics of the systems that have allowed these matters to fester. Such states of affairs are simply unacceptable.