The truth and nothing but the truth
The Bermudian electorate is certainly entitled to truth, and nothing but the truth, when it comes to how the public purse is handled by those they have elected to oversee all matters that involve use of the taxpayers’ money. This is to ensure that nothing is done to raise concerns about whether those responsible are conducting their duties according to official rules.
This is a concern in practically any democratic jurisdiction worldwide, especially when something is done that sets off alarm bells, leaving more questions than answers. Here in Bermuda, the Office of the Auditor-General has been the watchdog for keeping a sharp eye on how government money is spent, and that task carries great responsibility because no government wants to be placed in the position of being challenged on whether procedural policies are being followed to the letter on various financial projects.
The Auditor-General’s office, in past reports, expressed concern over a number of government transactions that were not fully transparent in complying with standard procedures, resulting in questions regarding certain expenditures. That seems to the electorate to be a just cause for wanting more information as to who is accountable if wrongdoing is uncovered when it pertains to the public purse. Most importantly, the people want only the truth because without that shadows of suspicion have a tendency to escalate.
The Commission of Inquiry under way at present is looking into a number of government transactions between 2010 and 2012, with its mandate to seek truth as a direct result of questions raised by the Auditor-General’s office. This process is being watched very closely by the public, with truth as the ultimate objective — at least that should be the case. No one should jump to any conclusions before the commission submits its final report. The bottom line is that no government or major business operation should be above the law when it comes to proper business ethics. Even if the truth is painful and difficult to swallow, the air will never be clear until truth reigns.
Most Bermudians are not out to get anyone. But, on the other hand, they don’t want to feel they have been had by mishandling of the public purse. It is always good to know that truth will determine which way the scale swings.
When trust is betrayed and credibility crumbles, someone should be held accountable. This came to light recently in the United States where the bank of Wells Fargo, famous even from the days of the Old West, fell from grace after employees created false accounts, causing customers to lose millions. The chief executive offer was hauled before a government hearing where officials not only blasted him for gross fraud, but some called for him to resign or be jailed. One thing was clear: when a ship goes off course, the buck usually stops with the captain.
This was a case where trust had been breached by a company that many felt was operating with the highest standards of security. Now once again, a big business in that nation has lost its credibility, and only time will tell how long it will take to repair that kind of damage.
Whatever comes out of Bermuda’s Commission of Inquiry, it is to be hoped that not only will it strengthen how all governments conduct the people’s business, but that it will also form a new foundation of transparency that should go a long way to restoring public confidence in the handling of the public purse.
Bermuda needs to clear the air as we attempt to build a stronger, healthier society for all. This will happen only if we keep truth, transparency, dignity and respect as our highest values.
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