02 July 2011

AG finishes term with more fumbles

Outgoing auditor general John Noseworthy held to his pattern of making less-than-accurate claims or claims without evidence, this time with respect to the offshore regulatory board.

Noseworthy’s claims and the accurate information from the board are in a story available at the Telegram website.

In his latest accusation, Noseworthy said he did not have full access to the offshore board records.  Fact is, he did.  What Noseworthy couldn’t get was proprietary information belonging to the oil companies.

“We invited him in. He had sent four people in, they were here for four months conducting an audit. He had full access to the board,” [offshore board CEO Max] Ruelokke said.

But Ruelokke said Noseworthy’s staff did not have access to information provided to the board by oil companies — which the companies deem to be proprietory [sic]— and that’s because of section 119 of the Atlantic Accord Act.

The act states companies have to approve the release of the information to any third party.

“When we asked (the companies) to do so, on behalf of the auditor general, they refused to do that. So we couldn’t release it to him,” Ruelokke said.

The distinction is significant.

Your humble e-scribbler has raised questions about Noseworthy’s attack on the board – and that’s what it has been – from the beginning.

The most recent post on the topic raised the question  of why Noseworthy had failed to produce a report or bothered to update the public on it since he launched his public attack on the board in 2008.  Maybe Noseworthy’s most recent unfounded accusation was an effort to deflect attention away from his own shortcomings.

While Noseworthy enjoys local “media cred’ – that is, they will never, ever question any of his pronouncements – the retiring auditor’s record is far from pristine.

Noseworthy missed millions in House of Assembly overspending that continued well into 2006. The accurate figure turned up in some fairly simple analysis done by the Green commission. 

Despite having access to financial records kept by the comptroller general, Noseworthy did not once report on the obvious overspending in some House of Assembly accounts until after his auditors stumbled across irregularities in 2006.

From the rings to spending by individual members of the legislature to the actual rules in place during the period, Noseworthy or his crew simply didn’t do the homework in many cases to know what they were looking at. That didn’t stop him from making claims that were baseless or that lacked evidence.

And to cap it all, Noseworthy still hasn’t completed the tasks set out for him in a 2006 cabinet order.  Instead he substituted his own commentary on individual member’s spending in an incomplete report he issued to wide media coverage.

And on that one Noseworthy also missed one fairly obvious problem in the House scandal: diversion of public money for partisan purposes. It’s obvious wrong and there was way more to it than just the $11,000 he did report.  Three times that turned up during subsequent criminal trials of former members of the House.  And while Noseworthy couldn’t have reported that while the investigations and trials were under way, it was the most fundamentally corrupt practice he should have seen raised in his original audits.

But he didn’t.

Instead, Noseworthy focused on trinkets.  In one news conference, Noseworthy said that he and his staff “did not find” any rings.  That led many to believe initially that the rings did not exist. They quickly turned up, however if one looked. Obviously, Noseworthy and his staff didn’t look.   

In perhaps the most bizarre case, Noseworthy replaced his actual recommendations for a report on government operations and substituted one he never made.  He then reported compliance with his invented recommendation in a review he produce of government compliance with his reports.

The matter gets to be all the more serious when you realise the subject of the original report was an apparent lack of adequate management of public money handed out to private sector companies.

Noseworthy has never explained the discrepancy in what he reported originally and what he claimed happened later on. Nor did Noseworthy report in his self-assessment that one of the companies covered in the original report had gone bankrupt in the intervening two years.

- srbp -