First published January 14, 1989

WELL-KNOWN business executive Mr. Ernest Christiani died this week at 68 and was buried Thursday.

Christiani was at one time President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Development Association for five years, and according to current Chamber head, Mr. Wainright McKenzie, “he carried this mantle of leadership with integrity, zeal and fair play.”

Christiani also served “very faithfully and industriously’ with the firm of William Fogarty’s Limited, McKenzie said and added, “he was very knowledgeable and tended to be very outspoken.”

Head of Insurance Brokers (Guyana) Limited, Mr. Hans Barrow, with whose company Christiani was a Director and Company Secretary recalled their association went back over 30 years.

“I have always held him in the highest esteem,” Barrow said and added, “he has been to me a fortress of strength.”

“He would be very difficult to replace in this generation,” Barrow said.

Our Opinion

Ministerial Responsibility

INEVITABLY, after the disaster last Sunday, there was a call for the resignation of De­puty Prime Minister Corbin within whose portfolio electri­city and other public utilities fall. Mr. Corbin defended himself in the National Assembly. He referred to the collapse of the utility poles as an Act of God and noted that the stand­by generator at the Water Works was out of order. He said the rectification of these problems was a top priority.

It is not our intention to dis­cuss the merits of this particu­lar matter here. The opposi­tion would no doubt argue that some of the poles that fell had been visibly rotten for some time, as are others elsewhere, and that the gen­erator had been out of order for some time. Mr. Corbin may argue, if that is the case, that no poles , were available or that they could not get the required parts for the generator. Be that as it may, we would like to reflect more generally on the question of Ministerial respon­sibility.

It is, as we understand it, a part of the parliamentary sys­tem that Ministers take responsibility for the efficiency and conduct of matters in their portfolio. This means in practice that they answer ques­tions on issues that arise and try to explain or justify what has been done. If there is no satisfactory explanation they resign.

We must confess that we are unable to remember any example in this or the PPP government where a Minister has accepted responsibility for the failure of his ministry and stepped down though there have certainly been many cases in the past where ministries have performed very poorly. Off hand, we cannot recall any examples of resignations in our fellow Caricom countries though we have not been able to check on this. This part of the par­liamentary tradition, it seems, has not caught on in these coun­tries.

It is a pity, we feel, because essentially a minister is doing a job like anyone else. If you fail to do your job in a private firm, you usually pay for this. If in public office you visibly fail to perform it would be salutary for there to be some sanction.

Failing this, a situation will arise in which citizens lose all confidence in public office­holders as it will be felt that performance doesn’t matter one way or the other. That would be a disastrous lesson for the entire body politic.

Public Accounts For ’82, ’83 Still Not Audited

THE latest Auditor General’s report tabled in Parliament reveals that the Public Accounts continue to be in a poor state and the office is yet to report on the Public Accounts for 1982 and 1983.

The 1987 report of the Office of the Auditor General was tabled this week in the National Assembly by Finance Minister Mr Carl Greenidge.

The report says the Auditor General was “unable to report on the Public Accounts for the years 1982 and 1983 as programmed because the related fin­ancial statements had not been presented for audit.”

The non-submission by government depart­ments of annual finan­cial statements breaches the Financial Adminis­tration and Audit Act. The last audited Public Accounts are for 1981.

According to the re­port, “responses to audit queries raised based on an examina­tion of the accounts of Ministries, Departments and Regions continued to be unsatisfactory.”

It continued, ‘the Auditor General is also required to examine and report on the accounts of 171 other organisations, including companies. A signifi­cant number of these organisations did not present their accounts for audit as required by the relevant organisa­tions. In many cases, audit opinions were several years in arrears.

‘The absence of inter­nal audit departments in most Ministries Departments/ Regions and some other organi­sations affected the ex­tent to which audit checks had to be carri­ed out. Had internal audit departments been in place and fully operational, the work of this office would have been considerably reduced.’

The report revealed that, like most other state agencies, the office has been affected by the departure of trained staff and delays in filling vacancies.

Among other require­ments, the Auditor General has to ascertain whether public ac­counts have been faith­fully and properly kept and whether “all money expended and charged to an appro­priation account has been applied to the pur­poses for which the grants made by Parlia­ment were intended to provide and the expen­diture conforms to the authority which governs it, and has been incurred with due re­gard to the avoidance of waste and extrava­gance.”

He also has to ascer­tain whether ‘essential records are maintained and the rules and pro­cedures framed and applied are sufficient to safeguard the control of stores and other pub­lic property.’

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