Nothing speaks to the outgoing Premier's moral and political bankruptcy more than his effort to redirect the outrage from the $10M arguably criminal overspend at TCD (exact same M.O., contractor and Minster as the Dockyard overspend) to that against the Auditor herself for making the report public prior to Parliament reconvening, and reaching the same conclusions that her predecessor did in his audits.
"The Auditor General's Reports are to go to the Speaker of the House, who in turn tables them for the House to consider," Dr. Brown said. "We're two weeks away from the first opportunity for that usual process, so I found this Report's timing and very media-based release strange.
"This reminds me of the style of the former Auditor General and it diminished the stature of the office when it's done that way.
The outgoing Premier has never expressed outrage or genuine dissatisfaction about the repeated fleecing of the taxpayers of Bermuda during his tenure, but routinely rants against the media and independent oversight bodies that point it out.
Perhaps the Auditor released the report directly to the media to prevent the PLP engaging in the well-worn tactic of quickly tabling a report in Parliament but not taking it up for months on end. This allows them to hide behind the Speaker who would enforce a procedural rule of not permitting discussion in Parliament of tabled items until the relevant Minister decides it's an opportunistic time.
The PLP has used this tactic to bottle up un-favourable reports for months at end on a number of occassions.
So point to the Auditor who has affirmed the independence and responsibility first and foremost to the public interest of her position.
With respects to his second point:
"Commentary and sensational headlines based on the findings of the Report without the benefit of proper context or the full facts of the Ministry position do a disservice to the hard-working public officers of the Ministry and the Department who spent countless hours addressing these issues."
Here's an idea. Perhaps the Auditor didn't believe the excuses. Unlike the PLP's belief that they can press release themselves out of any situation, financial controls tend not to mesh with politically driven false equivalencies and excuses. Unlike the media who feel an obligation to report complete nonsense in the pursuit of perceived objectivity and 'balance', the Auditor probably just dismissed what wasn't credible.
Additionally, the obvious problem with the political strategy of defaming and discrediting previous Auditor General Larry Dennis for his repeated findings based on his race, is that when his black female successor reaches the same conclusions the public begin to reach two devastating conclusions of their own:
- It's the PLP and their cronies that are corrupt, not two Auditors and Opposition.
- As Audit reports are now race independent, whereelse have and will the PLP exploit race? This from a party that claims it as their raison d'etre.
Politically number 2 is huge: the PLP's brand is undermined and begins to erode, particularly when the Finance Minister and Presumptive Premier in Waiting issued 404 words of absolutely incoherent verbosity in response to the report. "An identity of interest", "as signposted", "review of the regime has considered the framework that exists", "latent ambiguity" and "overriding authority" for example.
The old blind-em-with-BS strategy. How's about "This is completely unacceptable and we will get to the bottom of it and recover the misappropriated public funds and cease contracting with the offenders"? Couldn't Ms. Cox have found that kind of clarity and purpose rather than a 400 word episode of verbal diarrhea?
And finally, we now have two major capital projects by the same contractor which have both run suspiciously over-budget, and where the Auditor doesn't appear to think that the asset values are remotely close to construction cost.
Both appear suspiciously similar in how the overruns were executed: low-ball the budgeted cost, move the project out of the Ministry of Works and Engineering and into Ewart Brown's relm of Tourism and Transport, ignore established financial controls and crank up costs and come in multiples of original cost.
Which leads to my final point. How on earth has Correia Construction not been disqualified from any future Government, at least until the Auditor's findings have been fully investigated with a complete forensic audit?
Surely the Finance Ministry should stop contracting with a company which appears either incompetent or malicious in their business practices.
If Ewart Brown and Paula Cox were the CEO and CFO of a corporation who handled their shareholders' funds this badly they'd both be fired.
Yet the PLP appear poised to promote the CFO? Shocking and telling.
I'm just surprised that the PLP as a party want to own Ewart Brown's legacy like this. Surely they'd be much smarter to try and paint the past 4 years as some sort of aberration.
I suspect we'll see attempts at this after this weekend's leadership vote, Brown will be to the PLP as George Bush immediately was to Republicans once out of office. But both parties own those legacies now as much as their leaders do.
Fortunately for the outgoing Premier, he'll be comfortably ensconced in the Vineyard while we deal with the disastrous fallout of his tenure.
Unfortunately for his party they will have to face the voters again. It might not be at the next election, but corruption is now firmly entrenched as a theme of the PLP's performance as Government, and at some point the voters will react.