by Anthony Stewart, PhD
Pennies and cents have been taken out of use officially but many shops continue to quote prices using them. The idea of rounding off has taken hold everywhere so that many no longer worry about using such small denominations to balance their accounts. Rounding off $95 million to $0 is quite a leap. School children no longer seem to want to deal with coins less than 25 cents. Some do not bother to pick up coins of any amount from the ground.
Of late, some shopkeepers have been refusing to accept 10 and 5 cent pieces for payment. But consumers must assert their right to make payments using the currency of legal tender. This includes 10 and 5 cent pieces. Some establishments have been quoting foreign currency in their pricing, distressing locals. The Department of Consumer Affairs needs to look into this and ensure that our local people are not discriminated against in any way.
Accounting for our own money is a challenge. Loans, mortgage, goods credited from shops, and monies borrowed from relatives, and friends are all recorded carefully. If my payments are not forthcoming, they give me a reminder so that they can collect. I, myself may not keep meticulous record of what I owe. If I am confronted about bills I owe from 5 years ago, I am not likely to remember. It appears that the Accountant General is in a similar position.
Checks and balances should have been put in place so that taxpayer’s money can be safeguarded. This means that for every quantity of money that is spent, a corresponding check written in the name of the recipient keeps tract of it. Balance occurs when reconciliation is made with the Bank. Thus, the Bank as well as the Accountant General’s workers will be keeping records of the same expenditure. I call this Double Entry. Additionally, any receipt generated, and any minutes or directive from a responsible authority linked to each check is noted, lengthening the money trail. Receipt #s, photographs of the recipients and goods purchased may also be recorded. It is now easy to make electronic files. So, there is no shortage of documentation records. Text messages can also be used to record instructions taken on the go. Professional Accountants may have their own terminology with different meanings, but for me and many ordinary folks, my method may suffice.
According to the Auditor General, $95 million dollars was removed from the Government’s Overdraft facility at the bank from 5 years ago and the Accountant General did not provide sufficient documentation detailing the whereabouts of the money. It is to be noted:
- 5 years is too long a period and those who did the reckoning in their head would not remember. Accounting and auditing needs to be done on a yearly basis.
- The bank accurately records that the money of $95 million left the bank.
- The Accountant General was unable to provide documented evidence of how the $95 million was spent.
The appropriate action to be taken appears to be:
- Determine where the money went if possible. Embezzlement? Theft? Misappropriation?
- Resignation of the Accountant General? Minister of Finance? Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance? Prime Minister? Government?
- Bring Motion of No Confidence in the Government if this is a normal democratic country?
- Parliament provides sufficient staff and funding for yearly Accounting and Auditing.
- Employ Forensic Auditors and Police to find and return the $95 million to the Government Treasury.
- Provide the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee with office space, a secretary and sufficient funding to do their work.
It appears that those currently responsible for the country’s finances are unable to account for the whereabouts of $95 million from 5 years ago. We were not given proper accounting for Argyle International Airport. Financial problems will be compounded if they are not dealt with expeditiously. The most recent 5 years may very well reveal additional potential improprieties. All this seems to lead to Misbehavior in Public Office and I am not interested in anyone going to jail but that all the monies be returned by those who removed it without proper authorization and documentation. Integrity legislation would have kept people with sticky fingers from putting their hands in the cookie jar. We need to act now before all of us are reduced to abject, EXTREME, poverty.
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