Permanent Secretary (PS) within the Premier’s Office, Dr Carolyn O’Neal-Morton has revealed that the Auditor General (AG) was stymied from auditing the government’s COVID assistance grants because the PS did not feel it was the AG’s turn.
In a report issued by Auditor General Sonia Webster, it was stated that the Premier’s Office repeatedly blocked her team from accessing data that was critical to informing the audit.
While giving evidence in a lengthy hearing before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) last Friday, Dr O’Neal Morton largely confirmed the AG’s claim. However, the PS said she was of the view that the AG needed to wait until the end of the stimulus process before being able to review any data.
Because of her belief, Dr O’Neal Morton made no efforts to process data requests made by the Auditor General but instead only took steps to look at requests from the government’s internal auditor.
Dr O’Neal-Morton reportedly told the AG that the government’s COVID-19 assistance programmes were still ongoing and an internal audit was being conducted simultaneously.
I never intended to dishonour Auditor General
Stressing that she only needed more time to comply with the Auditor General‘s request, Dr O’Neal Morton said she never intended to dishonour the Auditor General‘s Office.
She said she also needed clarity about the sequence of the auditing that was being done.
The PS also denied any attempts to wilfully obstruct the operations of the Auditor General‘s Office, as was indicated in some reports.
In addition to the fact that she was a new Permanent Secretary at the time, Dr O’Neal Morton explained that staffing was an issue as well.
According to Dr O’Neal Morton, these were some of the things that formed her main challenges.
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