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.”
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.
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.’