The latest Auditor General report is as disturbing as it is disappointing from the standpoint of what it says about the slackness of our Government.
And of course, this is nothing new. Successive reports from the Auditor General, and indeed other state sources, have also confirmed that slackness is not a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) ailment, but that it has plagued all administrations, whether DLP or Barbados Labour Party, since independence.
However, no longer can it be a case of us throwing our hands in the air while all around us our financial and other structures continue to crumble at the self inflicted actions of our very state.
In fact, after perusing the 2017 report by Auditor General Leigh Trotman in which a number of damning revelations have again been made, we again ask, ‘who will guard the guards?’
Will it be the police? The prison authorities?
But how can it be when they themselves have been put under the microscope and found to be equally as culpable in some instances as those who they would have us more readily condemn, lock away and throw away the key?
In the case of the police we are still waiting to hear what has become of the case of the two officers who were recently accused of harassing three women at the Soca Legends event at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, after one of the women refused the invitation of one of the officers to dance with him.
Up to now no charges have been laid and there’s nary a word from the police high command to give us comfort that a serious investigation is in train.
And while this is bad enough, we shudder over the fact that it is not a secluded case.
It begs the question, given the proven propensity of some officers to do as they like, do they really have the moral authority to force others to follow the rules?
The same with the Prison Department, the Ministry of Transport and Works, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Agriculture, who along with the Police Department, were among five state entities listed in the 2017 Auditor General report for overpayment of salaries to the tune of $3.78 million as at December 31, 2017.
In the case of the police it was said that the affected officers not only drew down on full pay when they should have been on no pay or half pay leave as a result of extended sick leave, but they also claimed NIS refunds as well.
These are the very same police and prison authorities who are expected to pick up accused persons, put them in handcuffs and take them off to prison for even the slightest hint of financial wrongdoing.
But instead, their actions give meaning to the words of Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens that the law is an ass – a idiot. For if a police officer is allowed to get away with committing financial fraud against the state, why come down on the petty clerk who has been found with his or her hand in the cookie jar?
No longer can it be a case of do as I say and not as I do with our Government, but disappointingly, the same mistakes seem to be recurring time and time again, and when it is not one department it is the next as the vicious cycle of wrongdoing persists.
For instance, a detailed audit of the operations of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) back in 2016 found several infelicities, including a shortage of vital financial accounting information, understated tax revenues and unverifiable refunds balances.
And even though no shares had been issued by the central revenue collection agency, it was laughable that a figure for share capital was reported in BRA’s statement of changes of equity for the 2015/2016 financial year, according to the Auditor General.
With the operations of BRA still deemed to be slack, the spotlight has more recently been shone on the island’s sole water company, the Barbados Water Authority, which broke its own tendering rules when it awarded a multi-million dollar contract for the leasing and purchasing of several water tankers during the 2016/2017 financial year.
This is the same BWA that was cited in previous reports for questionable dealings, especially as it relates to the award of contracts.
Incidentally, this is also the same BWA that will now be collecting millions of dollars on behalf of Government in the form of the Garbage and Sewage Contribution that is to be applied to water bills.
We therefore look forward to firm and decisive action on the part of our new Government to bell the proverbial cat that has served to make a mockery of our entire system and leaves us questioning who really should be incarcerated at both Dodds prison and the Psychiatric Hospital.