The Auditor General's reports are detailed, specific and well-documented.

They have certainly rattled the Government. But they should rattle every citizen who dreams of something approximating good government for his country.

We cannot improve our education system by having $13 million performance bond for a new school project simply evaporate, or by having the project come in three years late and $55 million over budget.

We cannot improve tourism by making huge over-payments to advertising agencies, accepting advertising markups of almost 200 per cent, or paying for advertising that never occurred.

We cannot have a Government free from suspicions of bribery and kickbacks if contractors receive ridiculously inflated payments, and if business is done without invoices.

We cannot have accountable government if Ministers order civil servants to deliberately impede the work of an auditor, make uncertified payments to contractors, or pass on more than half a million dollars simply to help cash flow.

It's as simple as that.

Any Government makes mistakes, especially a relatively new one. And it is reasonable to expect a certain amount of public denial, even while corrections are quietly being made behind the scenes.

Yet the Government's response to the latest auditor's report is, so far, pathetic and predictable: The Auditor General has "politicized" his job, the Premier says, is determined to damage the Government, and should be made to resign (even though he is scheduled to retire this summer).

The Premier said his report "does not deserve the respect of the Government."

This is, very conveniently, the only excuse the Government can make for answering no questions and admitting no fault.

It is impossible, of course, to audit the underlying psychological motives of anybody, including the Auditor General.

But it is worthwhile pointing out that the kind of work presented to the public this week is, in fact, exactly what an Auditor General is appointed to do.

And the kind of laxness and abuse that have been revealed to the public this week show exactly why an Auditor General is so essential to good government.

His report is hard-hitting, but it is also specific. What he says is supported by evidence. Where he cannot find supporting documents, he says so. Where he is not certain, he admits it.

Where the Government disagrees with the Auditor General's findings, it needs to point out in detail where he has gone wrong. Where it admits the Auditor General is right, it needs to say how it will correct the problem and prevent it from happening again.

AG must admit mistakes

The Auditor General must be prepared to respond as well, to acknowledge any errors the Government finds in his work, and to defend himself against false accusations.

It would be a final and important service to Bermuda, before his retirement, to do all he can to make sure his work and his recommendations are taken seriously.

In the meantime, Bermudians have every reason to despair over their Government.

The problem isn't that an Auditor General seems determined to damage the Government, as the Premier claims, but that the Government seems determined to damage itself.

This keeps going on and on, with no sign of remorse or correction, no indication that lessons are learned or that anything at all is changing for the better.

Why are we facing the same problems with the new police and court building that we faced a few years ago with the new Berkeley school building?

Why do Ministers, who opened themselves to charges of self-dealing in the Bermuda Housing Corporation affair, do the same thing seven years later with tourism over-payments?

Sooner or later our Government is going to have to take responsibility for it own actions.

Sooner or later, our citizens are going to have to take responsibility for their own actions or lack of actions.

All of us - the Government, and those who are being governed - have to do a much better job looking after the public's money, the public's projects, the accountability and openness of government, and our own reputations as honourable men and women.