The Constitution requires the Auditor General to watch over the public purse. But the last time a Report from the Auditor General was tabled in Parliament was way back in 1999 and previous to that was a 1989 Report.
So tomorrow when the House convenes in Belmopan, the Auditor General, trying to regain relevance, will table reports for the last five fiscal years from 2003-2004 through to 2007-2008. There is also a special report on the much-delayed Soybean Processing Project which will go before the House.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, while in Opposition and since taking office, has made accusations of financial mismanagement against the last government. And while the Auditor General’s reports are voluminous, there are many issues that are potentially explosive, in particular the public debt. While a much closer analysis of the documents is required, here are a few examples of possible controversy. In the 2005-2006 Report, the Auditor General refers to disbursed public debts of one point eight five seven billion dollars; in the process of the audit though, the Central Bank did not submit for audit six loans totaling forty-four million two hundred and ninety-eight thousand two hundred and sixty-nine dollars. In the same year, the audit could not draw any conclusions in relation to another six new loans totaling more than two hundred and twenty-eight million dollars which were included on the statement of public debt. According to the Auditor General, these loans were not seen on the Smart Stream which is government’s computerized accounting system.
Another example is in respect of the 2006-2007 Audit where a total debt of two point zero one eight billion dollars was presented for review. According to the report, the Central Bank again recorded six loans of over forty-four point three million which were not included in the Statement of Public Debt. Five other loans of one point zero nine two billion were included in the statement of debt without supporting documentation.
And while the politicians will have much to bicker about, an even more intense spotlight will be on senior public officers at the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and the Accountant General’s Office whose professional responsibilities are to ensure that the books are kept in order.
While the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance will be tabling the Reports tomorrow, the House’s rules prevent a debate and instead, the Reports will go to the Public Accounts Committee where members will attempt to unravel the secrets of the statements. http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=22349