British Virgin Islands

Sunday, Dec 05, 2021

Webster signals at new stimulus audit gov’t might not want seen

Webster signals at new stimulus audit gov’t might not want seen

Auditor General (AG), Sonia Webster, has suggested that more audit reports are likely to be forthcoming on the government’s COVID-19 stimulus grant spending which started last year.

Webster gave that indication after being recalled before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) to be questioned by Sir Geoffrey Cox, QC, the lead attorney from of Withers LLP representing ministers of government in the Inquiry.

Sir Geoffrey told the Auditor General that back in June, Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Premier’s Office, Dr Carolyn O’Neal Morton, had requested an extension of one week to submit a response to Webster’s draft audit report, but the request was declined.

Sir Geoffrey said Webster knew on June 10 that she would be required to give evidence before the Commission on June 28. He suggested that if the PS was given one more week to complete her response, then the AG would not have had enough time to finalise her reports for her first appearance before the COI.

Delay tactics?

But Webster sought to correct the record and stated that the Premier’s Office was given almost a month to address the draft report; much more time than is usually given to other ministries and departments when these drafts are issued, she said.

“That was more than sufficient time,“ the Auditor General stated. “I’m sorry they did not send us anything else, we’d been asking and asking, they sent us nothing for 11 months. Are we to assume that within a week they are going to send us something?”

“What I would say to you is that not getting a response from the Premier‘s Office and having them ask me for an extension to that date, it did occur in my mind that they were actually trying to prevent the reports from being finalised,“ Webster added.

She continued: “There might be some information in there that the Premier’s Office does not want us to see and we did some specific searches that brought up some interesting details that are not in this particular report and probably will be in the other report.”

“That was one of the things that was in our minds.”

Webster further denied that her office was at any stage attempting to facilitate any processes in preparing the final audit reports.

The AG said the intention was simply to complete as many audits as possible before moving on to assessing the issue of outstanding annual financial statements, whenever these were received.

“We were faced with a situation where the Premier’s Office was not facilitating our requests and at that stage, we still needed to go ahead and complete our audits,” she added.


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