The Public Accounts Committee has voted to strike from the record statements made by OfReg Chairman Linford Pierson, which questioned the accuracy of the auditor general’s report into the operations of the regulator.
The committee, led by PAC chairman Ezzard Miller, took the action to strike Pierson’s statements Wednesday.
The decision followed a report from Auditor General Sue Winspear rebutting claims from Pierson who, during his testimony last week, alleged that he had not been consulted during the audit process nor was the information in the performance audit accurate when it came to implementation of government policy.
He also claimed that it was conducted outside of the legally stipulated timeframe of three years.
The report, titled ‘Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Utility Regulation and Competition Office (OfReg) – June 2020’, found that OfReg’s first three years in operation was plagued by a lack of strategic planning, little oversight and inconsistent leadership.
Winspear, appearing before the PAC, said the factual accuracy of her office’s report still stands, even if witnesses “may not like the conclusions” she draws from those facts.
She also objected to comments made by OfReg CEO Malike Cummings that OfReg was costing more than its predecessor entities – the Information and Communications Technology Authority, the Electricity Regulatory Authority and the Petroleum Inspectorate.
The auditor general said it was difficult to assess this as ”like for like” and she could not state that was the case.
Winspear added that she had “plenty of documentary evidence” that, despite the comments made by the OfReg executives, most of the regulator’s comments were taken on board by her team in their report and changes were made based on executives’ input.
She said the audit team met with the entire OfReg board, non-executives and the Cabinet secretary.
There were “15 individual meetings in total” and most of the meetings with Pierson were attended by the “whole audit team.”
She refuted Pierson’s statement that he would have provided the audit team with OfReg’s succession plan if he had been asked for it.
Winspear said that, during the audit, no document or board minutes were found stating that a formal succession plan was accepted.
The only sight of a plan her team had, she said, was an undated document that Pierson sent to the PAC last week.
She also rebutted Pierson’s statement that the regulator was adopting government’s policies and there had been no delay in doing so.
Winspear said her team found that those policies, handed down by Cabinet, were being adopted while the audit was being conducted.
PAC member Chris Saunders, the MLA for Bodden Town West, also brought to the attention of the committee a recent Facebook post by Governor Martyn Roper following his meeting with Winspear.
In that post, Roper said that during his meeting with Winspear, they had discussed COVID-19 expenditure, the OfReg report, the next PAC session, media and upcoming elections.
Roper said Winpear and her “hard-working team have an essential role supporting our good governance and strong international reputation”.
Saunders said this was brought to his attention by constituents who raised concerns.
He said he had no reason to believe that Winspear and her office was not independent nor that her office was being directed or controlled by any entity.
However, he said he did not want anyone to think that there were any attempts to influence the work of the Auditor General’s Office.
Miller said he too received comments from professionals in the community on the post, which he described as “unfortunate”.
“I am also confident that there is no interference,” Miller added.
However, he said the governor’s reference to COVID expenditure, in particular, was raised with him.
“I would discourage the governor from putting such things on social media,” Miller said.
The PAC is in session this week.
On Wednesday, Pierre Magnan, president of Sol Investments, is appearing before the committee.