WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11: The Auditor General’s office has often been at the centre of controversy over Government spending.
Earlier this year, Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews was critical of the handling of taxpayers’ money in two separate cases.
The Auditor General’s special report looked at Government’s funding of a $4 million civil action in Canada for conspiracy and defamation involving ex-Premier Ewart Brown and former Works and Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess.
The action, naming a Canadian architect and a Bermuda Government employee, was in connection with two cheques which appeared to be payments to Dr Brown and Mr Burgess found in Government files.
The cheques were subsequently found to be forgeries.
The report accused Government of showing a “blatant disregard for the public purse and a lack of transparency and accountability at the most senior levels of Government.”
Ms Matthews said using public funds to pay for a private action in the names of Dr Brown and Mr Burgess was a violation of financial instructions.
Government — which has since terminated its payments to a Canadian law firm to fund the action — said the funds were used to protect the reputation of the Government and that both Dr Brown and Mr Burgess had undertaken not to personally profit if the action was successful.
Ms Jacobs Matthews also looked at the payment of $160,000 in consultancy fees to two board members of the BLDC — which she said should not have been paid as the arrangement was “a fundamental conflict of interest.”
She added that around $78,000 of the cash had not been properly approved by the board or a special sub-committee.
In 2010, a report into $15 million spent on building work for the Transport Control Department (TCD) accused Government of allowing the cost to mount up to triple the original estimate without proper oversight.
The report highlighted how Government ignored regulations to select a private firm, Bermuda Emissions Control Ltd, to run the new emissions testing operation without tendering the contract.
It also raised concerns over how construction work for the contract was given to Correia Construction — again without going out to tender.