BIU Financial Statements

It is encouraging to hear that the BIU has submitted the majority of their outstanding audited financial statements to the Registrar General and that the remaining financials are forthcoming. Hopefully, lessons have been learned from this experience and the BIU will ensure timely submissions moving forward. Not filing audited financial statements since 2003 and having those that were filed in the four years prior denied, is a gravely serious matter – the seriousness of which should not be minimised or dismissed in action, speech, or tone. It was correct that the BIU and, by extension, its president and officers were questioned and respectfully criticised, as it was a matter of distinct public interest and concern. Therefore, the BIU President, Chris Furbert, was quite right to hold a press conference to announce the progress and overall status.

The roll out of the BIU website is an excellent step in the right direction for the organisation and it will definitely serve the union, its members, and the public well by, among other things, disseminating first-hand information on matters related to the BIU. (I have a pet peeve about organisations not having websites in this technologically advanced day and age because they are such powerful and important tools in promoting organisations, disseminating information, and managing public relations.) I have certainly made use of the site from the moment Mr. Furbert mentioned it at a press conference during the bus strike a few weeks ago and would encourage others to do the same.

Mr. Furbert chose not to mention the name of the staff member who approached the BIU Executive about designing the website, but whoever they are, they have not only done good work; they clearly demonstrated great initiative by presenting a proposal to do it in the first place. This is the sort of attitude and quality of work that is deserving of recognition and praise. So, well done, whoever you are! It is a well put together site.

Now that the financial statements are getting sorted, it would be another great step to create a section on the website that includes information on the BIU’s financial position and performance, displaying the latest financial statements as they become available. Members, in particular, should make a special effort to scrutinise this information and ensure that they are satisfied with the way their membership contributions are being invested and that they are confident about the overall financial status of the union. (Read my previous article for suggestions of questions to consider when reviewing the statements.) It is only sensible that we should all follow this process for any organisation we invest with or with which we are similarly engaged.

While the submission of the outstanding financial statements is a step in the right direction, we cannot say the matter is quite closed, however, because the quality and content of those statements will be of interest to many. Also, there still remains the question of why the office of the Registrar General allowed this situation to go on for such an unacceptable period. Is the office lacking enforcement powers or did it simply choose not to hold the BIU accountable? It also begs the question: What other organisations are similarly behind and why has the Minister / Minsitry of Finance still not addressed the public on the issue? The Bermuda Government cannot speak about transparency and good governance and then remain silent when it comes to issues of this nature and magnitude; otherwise, public confidence and the country’s reputation is adversely affected.

Similarly, it might be necessary to also shift attention to the last published Auditor General’s Report (2008) in which it was highlighted that the problem of late submissions (albeit, none as extreme as the BIU case), denied financial statements, and those drawing qualified opinions from the auditor did not seem to be waning or effectively addressed. What is the status of parish councils, aided schools, and other institutions that receive funding from the government and were reportedly delinquent? And how are individuals being held accountable in these circumstances?

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~ by Carol-Ann Simmons on September 9, 2011.

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