Opinion: Audit Chamber

POSTED: 11/23/11 6:43 AM

The General Audit Chamber will have its hands full with its own government, not only while it is building up its own organization, but also – and maybe we ought to say especially – when the Chamber is ready to execute all of its tasks.
The Audit Chamber has the authority to perform financial, performance and integrity audits. For the time being, we figure that financial audits are the most important, and that is where the problems begin immediately.
We’re still reeling from the half-year report the financial supervisor Cft submitted to the Kingdom Council of Ministers in September. That report showed that the complier of the country’s annual accounts was repeatedly refused access to the systems at the Island Receiver. That resulted in incomplete financial information for the Cft, and a black eye for St. Maarten. The government machinery is simply not living up to its obligations.
Audit Chamber Chairman Roland Tuitt told in effect a similar story in the central committee meeting of yesterday afternoon.
By law, the Audit Chamber has the authority to request financial information from government departments. The departments in turn, are obliged by law to give that information.
Tuitt put it politely during his presentation yesterday when he remarked that the requirement to provide proper information “is not widely understood, known, and adhered to.”
In other words, we have people working at some ministries who do not understand the Audit Chamber’s authority, while others don’t even know about it. And lastly some people in these ministries do not follow the rules that are laid down in the law.
Tuitt said that he did not know why ministries are not submitting information to the Audit Chamber, but maybe we’re able to offer some help here.
There are two options. People do not give information because they do not know what they are doing. These are the civil servants who need re-education in a hurry. That’s okay, because this situation is at least reparable.
Then there are people who do not want to give information. These are the civil servants who intend to frustrate the work of the Audit Chamber (and probably also of the Cft) by refusing to follow the law. They could do this of their own accord, or they could act on instructions from higher up.
This now seems an excellent topic for one of those other audits the Audit Chamber is authorized to perform: integrity audits.
It is, in a way, a slippery slope, because these audits focus on individuals. But if there is no other way to kick the government administration into shape, this is the way it has to be. It is rather silly to establish high councils of state like the General Audit Chamber, pay its staff a stiff (and most likely justified) salary and then do everything possible to make its work impossible.
We have written this before, but it won’t hurt to repeat it here: the reports produced by the General Audit Chamber of the former Netherlands Antilles over the past twenty-odd years show a consistent and very worrying picture: that of an administration that goes out of its way to bend and abuse the rules it is supposed to follow and uphold.
Tuitt had a warning for these people: if need be, the General Audit Chamber has the authority to call in law enforcement to obtain the information it has requested.

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