Sports inquiry reflects bigger problem of Government fiscal indifference

By Donte Hunt, Shadow Minister for Youth, Sports and Community Development, September 26, 2011

The OBA supports in principle public money being used to develop Bermuda’s athletes and sporting activities. We do so with the proviso that government makes sure the money is properly monitored, appropriately spent and, hopefully, results in improved performance and personal development.

The problem in recent years has been a lack of accountability for how money was spent and, measured against performance, how effectively that money was spent.

Reporting requirements were placed on the Bermuda Football Association and Bermuda Cricket Board, but do not appear to have been enforced or kept up with. As a result, the spending of millions of dollars does not appear to have been properly tracked.

I have been told by a reliable source that one of the reporting requirements asked the sporting bodies each time they drew money down from their allocations to provide reasons for doing so. Another requirement was an audit every six months whereby they had to report on the use of the funds.

From what I understand, these things did not happen and that is a shame. If these basic steps had been followed, the Government would know where the money went, why it was used and, possibly, why significant funding support did not lead to better on-field and off-field results. The process would be transparent, and government and the public would have a clearer picture, with more answers than questions.

The situation gets down to the question of who is taking care of the public purse and making sure the public gets value for money spent.

Ultimately, the buck has to stop with the Government. It is the senior responsible body. It is supposed to be the steward of the public purse, making sure public funds are spent in a manner that generates value for money.

It is instructive that the BCB and the BFA situations touch the root of a larger problem, which is the Government’s failure to control and administer the public purse. Lax control over the allocations to sport is the same lax control we’ve seen in the administration of capital projects and untendered contracts; all of which have contributed significantly to Bermuda’s horrendous $1.2 billion debt.

When you don’t enforce requirements, when you don’t get reports, when you don’t look at and analyse on a regular basis how these funds are being used, then things will slip.

While we agree with the setting up of the commission, the government ought to look very closely at its role in the situation. There is a lack of management, a lack of oversight and, ultimately, a lack of responsibility and accountability at work here. You might call it indifference. We hope the commission of inquiry considers this side of the issue as well.