WEDNESDAY, JULY 7: The Auditor General complained today of government interference in her attempts to investigate the use of public funds.
Heather Jacobs Matthews — the financial watchdog constitutionally appointed to ensure public money is not misused — criticized the Ministry of Finance for hindering her investigations.
Ms Jacobs Matthews said the ministry had restricted her access to Government’s Financial Information Management System and ignored repeated requests over the past two weeks for access to be restored.
Within hours a statement was issued in response: “The Ministry of Finance can confirm today,” a spokesperson wrote, “that the Auditor General has been granted access to the Government accounting system.”
In her statement this morning Ms Jacobs Matthews said the restriction had “interfered with the work of the Auditor General” and “limited [the] ability to provide Parliament and the people of Bermuda with the information they have a right to know on a timely basis.
“Further, the action taken by the ministry is unconstitutional.
“The right to full access is embodied in the Auditor General’s mandate as established by Section 101 of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968 and Section 14 of the Auditor General’s ACT 1990.
“These provisions provide the Auditor General with the authority to access all books, records and other documents relating to all accounts the Auditor General is mandated to audit.”
Ms Jacobs Matthews was not available this morning to provide further details.
It is not the first time the office of the Auditor General and the government have clashed.
Previous Auditor General Larry Dennis issued a ‘qualified audit’ on the Consolidated Fund (government’s bank account) raising concerns over several government contracts, including a deal between the Ministry of Tourism and U.S. ad agency GlobalHue.
Ms Jacobs Matthews, who succeeded Mr. Dennis last year, is currently investigating several projects, including the building of a new cruise ship terminal at Dockyard, which went over budget by $25m.