It’s time to act on efficiency report
How many of us would be delighted to stumble upon hundreds of thousands of dollars that we had stashed away and forgotten about? What a “manna from heaven” moment that would be in light of the stressful economic times many of us are facing.
Well, that is exactly what happened recently here in Bermuda. Our government discovered a treasure trove of uncashed cheques, totalling $330,578 in a desk drawer at the Office of the Tax Commissioner. The funds were payments made by various law firms, some of which date back to 2006. It is uncertain as to why these cheques were not deposited, and it was through the work of the Government Efficiency Committee over the past 12 months that this discovery was made.
I understand from this recently completed GEC report that there are many areas of government administration that are being reviewed, and to the committee’s credit, there have now been recommendations made for improving efficiency and accountability within these departments.
Of course, one could also make the case that this is a duplication of effort — and unnecessary cost — given that we already have a comprehensive efficiency report, the Sage Report, which was undertaken in 2013 at no expense to the taxpayer. However, I am very encouraged to see that the GEC has referenced the Sage Report as a benchmark for recommendations for improved efficiency throughout the entire government administration.
There is no question that, as identified in the Sage Report, much needs to be done to institute a proper environment of accountability, timely decision-making and cohesive departmental interaction, and to ensure that all senior staff are well trained in the management and oversight of their respective departments.
Many key recommendations contained in the 2013 Sage Report were discussed and considered by the GEC and, in particular, this paragraph was mentioned:
“Senior leadership [in the Civil Service] has allowed bad practices to develop and has not held individuals to account for poor performance or inappropriate actions.”
We now know that the committee evidenced this itself in the discovery of that drawer full of uncashed cheques, with some dating back more than 11 years. Given that there was a policy in place that required cheques to be deposited upon receipt, this was a clear indication of no accountability and no proper review of issues affecting the Office of the Tax Commissioner.
It is now up to the Government of Bermuda to take action on this review without delay. As we all know, there are many reports written over the years, from all manner of experts, shedding light on the system failures in the administration of our government. Let us not add this one to that dusty pile of paperwork. The taxpayer should not, and cannot, shoulder the burden of government inefficiency any longer.
“I predict future happiness for the people, if they can prevent the Government from wasting the labours of the people under the pretence of taking care of them.” — Thomas Jefferson