Auditor General addresses Senate Hearings for the Last Time

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Updated: December 6, 2017

The Special Senate Select Committee held its last public hearing today. The hearings ended with the appearance of Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, who was also the very first person to appear before the Committee when the hearings commenced on November 9, 2016. Bradley, whose audit report of mass irregularities in the Ministry of Immigration has been the subject of the Senate Hearings, appeared with Senior Auditor, Carla Faber. Bradley started with a prepared statement. At the top of that statement, she made reference to a letter sent to her by CEO of the Immigration Ministry, Edmund Zuniga in which he asked her whether there is another version of the special report presented to the national assembly in respect to the immigration audit. She shared her response to the CEO with the Committee this afternoon.

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“I would like to state categorically that I have not at any time received any political interference at any juncture of the audit nor the reporting thereof. There simply cannot be any other version of the reports. I take full responsibility for the reports and I want to ensure the National Assembly to which I respond and the Belizean people that I have done my job with integrity and in an earnest manner and that I intend to continue to do so with God’s favor.”

There were other questions posed to the AG starting with what triggered the audit in the first place. She explained that it started with a Memo which she recalled came from the Ministry and which spoke of missing visas. The audit, as explained by the AG started as an investigation of the visa department but after the Wong Hong Kim scandal broke, and due to public pressure, the audit was extended to the passport and nationality sections of the ministry. But the Committee had more questions and one of these was posed by Senator Elena Smith who said they had information that suggested that a draft of the audit had more information.

Elena Smith, Senator

“We understand that the initial report, and when I say initially I guess I mean the first draft of the report had more information in it and that when it was presented that some of the information in the report that the team was asked to remove some of the material because it was too much or the volume or the books would have been too huge could you add anything to that?”

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“Sure. That would not be true. The process for any audit being conducted is there is a team assigned and there is a head auditor or lead auditor. Once that team is assigned and we have done our matrix and decided what exactly is the scope then we move forward with that. As I said the scope expanded because of what we were finding. Even when we decided to expand the scope then we started realizing that we were finding a lot of information. It was based on that that I decided on one point to do a preliminary report.But at the completion of any report what happens is that each individual officer whether it be a clerk or an examiner- because these are people below the supervisor- the demand or the request would be that instead of just picking up all this information and presenting it you are required to do it in a report format. It makes it easier for the supervisor who will then have to compile all the pieces of reports to make one draft. So once that was done, Ms.Faber did that, then there was passed to the then Deputy Auditor General who in this case for the immigration he was the quality assurance officer- because we have three quality assurance officers. When it reaches that stage at that level then the responsibility is that you would go through, you would question, you would examine. If you don’t have supporting documents it won’t work. Everything we produced must have supporting documents. Now once that is completed and the deputy then passed it on to me, it is still in a draft format and at that point, I still have my questions. Now the senior supervisor is pretty much aware that it is not everything you pick up you can present in a report. As a matter of fact, you can attest to the three volumes; that is a lot of information. So how do you decide and who decides what will happen? Well it passes through different phases; it stops at the supervisor first who must compile and make sense of it so that the dots are connecting and then it passes to the quality assurance officer who then asks other questions and then in the case of the immigration audit when it came to me I had to ask myself real questions. While I was out there at times trying to understand and trying to be in contact with Miss Faber ,really when I read it I have to pretend or put myself in the mode that I’m new to the information- is this making sense, are the terms being used familiar or people would be familiar with them? When it came to my desk then I started asking questions and in some instances especially I think in the VISA, what I found in there was that besides what is in the VISA write up was that all the interviews held with the different people were outlined in the report and I felt that it did not have to be there because we already had the subject matter, we already had the paragraph saying exactly what we found and if we needed to refer to people who came in here and said ‘oh I didn’t say that.’ or ‘Oh I didn’t say this.’ We can say to you ‘this was exactly what transpired.”

But did the rumors place Bradley’s team in problems with the Public Service Commission? Bradley said not so.

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“Definitely what you are saying is not true and the truth is that I’ve just learned that those people are the people who have a link with what is being said out there- I didn’t know that.”

Elena Smith, Senator

“Let me just clarify, I am not saying that they are the ones who gave that information I am just saying that we are hearing that persons who had worked on the audit are now being penalized for things that they might have said or things that they might have done as it relates to these reports and one of them I believe will be taken before the Public Service Commission.”

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“I really don’t know what you are talking about Senator, with all due respect I don’t know.”

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“Let me just clarify this. You said part of what she said was not true specifically what part of what—“

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“None of it is true.”

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“So the three persons that actually did the audits, the three team members that were actually involved in doing the audit they have not been brought forward for disciplinary charges?”

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“That would be a completely different thing it has nothing to do with what is in the report.”

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“No no. One at a time. Have the three persons that were original authors of the report the ones that actually did the auditing have they been brought before the commission on separate charges? Disciplinary charges?”

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“Let me tell you. I’m not comfortable discussing this because whatever is happening is happening a presentation is being made to the Public Service Commission but one of those presentations to the  commission is based on the fact that this committee which has all rights to summon anybody to be here did so and so I did not know anything about it and I know that nobody has authority to speak on my behalf but I never made any contact with this committee because simply I did not know what was happening and I wanted to know just like everybody else. So when I approached one of the most senior of the three I said ‘well can you explain to me did you get a letter to attend the commission?; and the response was no. So I learned that on the TV where three officers came here. I don’t know what happened after that but I felt that you are working for me under my code of ethics you are obligated to be as clean as possible as transparent as possible and nobody wanted to say what it is they said. I am now deducing and I could be wrong but based on what the senator said now it is kind of making sense but nobody said anything.”

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“The overall speculation is — and we wanted to ask you– is that these officers because of the substance in the reports have come under pressure, have come under victimization whatever it is that you want to call it and we want to clarify; while you have said you at no time received any political interference have you at any time been pressured to pressure the authors of these reports?”

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“Why?”

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“I don’t know it’s a question we need to ask.”

Dorothy Bradley – Auditor General

“What you are saying- with all due respect to the committee- those are hearsay and I think the same way the committee entertains that kind of talking they could have come to me to clarify.”