“The government should make the fight against the debt and the deficit one of its highest priorities,” said the Auditor Generalsays the annual report.
The report, which details the work of his office for the year ended March 31, 2019, was tabled in the House of Assembly.
It provides details of the audit work performed by the Office of the Auditor General of Bermuda during the year ended March 31, 2019, including the results of the Auditor General’s audit of the financial statements of the Government Consolidated Fund Bermuda for the year. ended March 31, 2018. It also includes information on the administration of the Office during the year.
Auditor General Heather Thomas has pointed out that her office’s main function is to audit the annual financial statements of the government and its agencies.
She said that “of the 47 audits or reviews of annual financial statements of government and other controlled organisations, funds, parish councils and assisted school capitation accounts that we have carried out during the 10 years resulted in qualified opinions or disclaimers. Unfortunately, one of my qualified audit opinions was on the financial statements of the Government Consolidated Fund for the year ended March 31, 2018 “.
Ms. Thomas indicated that she was able to provide an unqualified audit opinion on the financial statements of the Consolidated Fund for the year ended March 31, 2019. Details will be communicated in her annual report on the work of the Office for the year ended March 31, 2019. 2020.
“The importance of qualified opinions and disclaimers is explained in Section 3.1 of my report,” said Thomas. “In a general sense, they mean that all is not well and that, generally, sufficient and appropriate documentary support for the amounts recorded in the financial statements is not available.”
The Auditor General said that “the number of qualified and unqualified audit opinions, combined with the fact that as of March 31, 2019, 39 organizations under my mandate were at least one year past due in submitting their financial statements [with a total of 139 sets of financial statements in arrears], concerns me greatly and, in my opinion, should concern the legislators and the people of Bermuda. The government’s fiscal accountability process continues to not work well.”
Section 2 of the Auditor General’s report highlights some issues of particular importance. Ms Thomas said: “The issues, all of which have been discussed in my previous annual reports, show that this government continues to make decisions without knowing the combined financial position of all the organizations that make up the government reporting entity.
“Furthermore, there is no effective and comprehensive long-term plan to reduce the annual and accumulated deficits or associated debt, the unfunded liabilities of its major pension plans, or the size of taxpayer indebtedness, which continue all to grow unsustainably”.
The Auditor General noted that she was pleased that, through the Department of Finance’s responses to her recommendations, the government has committed to addressing many of the issues raised in her report.
She said: “Commitments include updating all outstanding financial statements by the end of 2020 and producing summary financial statements for the whole of government for the year ending March 31, 2021. . [subject to the availability of audited financial statements for Government-controlled organizations]. Ms. Thomas noted that her recommendations and the Department of Finance’s responses are included in her report.
“Another of the special issues in my report is the need for the government to provide the House of Assembly and the public with additional analytical information that would help them understand the financial statements of the Consolidated Fund of Government and its financial position. The government has committed to producing a financial statement discussion and analysis regarding the March 31, 2020 financial statements for the Consolidated Fund.
The Auditor General explained: “In the absence of the government to provide such material additional information, my report analyzes the main indicators of sustainability and flexibility of the financial position of the Government’s Consolidated Fund for the five years ended March 31, 2018. I have concluded that, despite some small improvements in some of the key measures, the financial condition indicators continue to demonstrate a level of unsustainability and reduced flexibility”.
“In my view, government needs to be clear about how its goals and priorities will be affected by fewer resources and needs to ensure that diminished resources are aligned in ways that maximize their effectiveness and have the least impact. on the quality of its service. delivery.
“Every year of inaction exacerbates the problems. The problems are serious. The government should make the fight against the debt and the deficit one of its highest priorities”.
The Auditor General added: “An ongoing issue for her office is efforts to modernize the Audit Act 1990. The Standing Committee of Parliament [‘Committee”] on the Office of the Auditor General fully supported this initiative dated April 14, 2016 and in collaboration with its current committee, a bill was drafted in May 2018 but no will to move forward”.
Ms. Thomas said she recognizes that her annual report is a historical look at the work of her office.
“Of course, the environment has changed as the government continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” the auditor general said. “The office has received a few inquiries about the government’s COVID-19 response and activities.
“We have undertaken a public interest review of the Government of Bermuda’s COVID-19 response and related programs; as part of the audit of the financial statements of the Government’s Consolidated Fund for the year ended March 31, 2020.
“The approach taken is a phased review of the government’s response to COVID-19 and related programs so as not to disrupt the government’s COVID-19-related activities. The results of its Office COVID-19 review will be spread over three reports.
The Auditor General’s report follows below [PDF here]: