Commonwealth secretary general defends track record

Commonwealth secretary general defends track record

Thursday, February 20, 2020

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Embattled Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland yesterday defended her track record amid reports that she may not be granted an automatic second term when her current term ends in March.

Earlier this month Britain suspended its funding for the Commonwealth Secretariat after Baroness Scotland was criticised by internal auditors for awarding a lucrative consultancy contract to a company run by a friend.

Auditors also said that the secretariat waived procurement rules no less than on 50 occasions over a three-year period.

However, she told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) yesterday that “there are a number of misconceptions and it is very unfortunate that a number of stories have been posted which are inaccurate and fallacious”.

She maintained that the proper procedure was followed when the contract was awarded to fellow Labour peer Lord Patel.

“The procurement process was absolutely adhered to. When I came into office on the first of April I was not responsible for the process that had gone before me. I was advised by the then Australian DSG (deputy secretary general) who I had total faith in, and I still have total faith in, that the process that was being adopted was the right process,” Scotland told CMC.

Some Commonwealth countries, including Britain, have suspended voluntary contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat in the wake of the audit report.

London has withheld its funding of 4.7 million, joining New Zealand and Australia in doing so until the secretariat's financial systems are tightened up and tested by external auditors.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is the central administrative hub for the intergovernmental organisation that comprises 54 countries – many of them former British colonies – and encompasses almost a third of the world's population.

But the 64-year-old Commonwealth secretary general said, “I have been told and I can only believe what countries tell me, is that they wanted to have certain issues clarified before the money could be sent forward.

“They gave six issues last month; five of those issues have already been dealt with, and one more remains which will be completed by the end of this month. So I hope that any proper impediment that people might have thought was in the way will be absolutely moved.”

She also defended the secretariat's performance under her leadership as “the most transparent and accountable system of any international organisation.

“We have just posted on the [Commonwealth] website all of our data. This is the most transparent and accountable system I think of any international organisation. I don't know that anyone else is doing what we're doing, and I'm very proud that for each of the years I have been secretary general, our auditors have given us a totally clean audit. Our audit from our auditors is also online for anyone to look at,” she said.

— See related story on Page 10

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