From: Bahamas Information Services
Mary Mitchell vividly recalls the day she first entered the doors of the Public Treasury Department. Some four plus decades later, Ms.
Mitchell is ‘hanging up her hat.’
“It’s been a journey; an awesome experience,” she said. From Trainee Accountant, to Financial Controller she climbed the corporate ladder earning the top post of Treasurer of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas at the end of 2017. After obtaining the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada professional qualification, she sought to gain practical experience and accepted a position at Panel Kerr Foster.
“At that time the Public Service was the place to be, but it did not have the internship that we currently have with accounting firms, so I left to take that position.
“While [there] I applied at the Public Service and the Royal Bank of Canada. The position of Financial Controller was available at the Ministry of Health and I was accepted,” she said. Ms. Mitchell later returned to the Public Treasury Department to lead the Accounts section.
She was very instrumental with major projects including offices in the Family Islands and the relocation of the headquarters of the Treasury Department Office to modern facilities at East and North streets in 2011.
“One of the first offices that we sought to develop was the office in Abaco. We found a location, recruited staff and opened the office in November of 2006. I had a good team working with me — Cyril Knowles, Brenda Butler and Marie Bain,” she recalled.
In 2013, she was seconded for one year to the Ministry of Finance for the Central Revenue Agency Project (CRA). “A part of the project was Value Added Tax (VAT) that we know of today. We focused on the CRA which comprised all the revenue agencies in government coming together under one umbrella. At the end of the project the Government decided they would focus on VAT and implemented VAT in 2015.”
Among Ms. Mitchell’s major projects as Treasurer is the implementation of accrual accounting.
“We’ve progressed very well; it’s a phased-in approach. As a result of some of the work we were able to achieve a clean audit report an (unqualified audit report) — the first in 25 years. ‘Unqualified’ means a clean and acceptable audit. Prior to that we got ‘qualified’ audit which is not a good audit. The 2017 and the 2018 accounts were ‘unqualified’ accounts – good audits. This means we’re headed in
the right direction.”
More recently, Ms. Mitchell, was among the final players of a team responsible for the New Accounting and Audit Officers career path. “We call it revised, but it’s more like a new career path where accounting staff are in a better place. They can move more quickly through the levels and more opportunities are there for them to advance. We finished it off, tidied it up and got approval. We will leave the accounting and audit staff in a better place than they were.”
She cherishes the three-year posting as Deputy Director of Finance at the Bahamas Maritime Authority in London and views it as the most “interesting” time in her career.
“I got exposed to how things operate in a large city and worked with professionals from different walks of like – ingratiating in the culture and rich history.”
With a staff complement of 300 throughout ministries and departments, and approximately 100 at the headquarters, Ms. Mitchell views herself as a no- nonsense, authoritative leader.
“I think I’m also democratic — I involve persons in the process. I seek to engage the staff a lot.” Ms. Mitchell believes in inclusion. She allows employees to contribute ideas and makes them feel a part of what is happening. “I’m a firm individual. My door is always open.”
Eugenia Cartwright is Ms. Mitchell’s predecessor but more importantly, her mentor. “As Treasurer for 19 years, I understudied her. I came back in 1999 and served with her for 18 years, I acted as treasurer for 18 years before she demitted office.
“She empowered me in terms of the work. She assigned a lot of special projects to me. Whatever she assigned to me I was up to the challenge and would carry it out to the best of my ability. I certainly look up to her it was indeed a privilege to be able to work with her.”
She credits her many years of dedication to her desire to serve.
“As officers, managers, leaders we must remember our first duty is to serve our colleagues and the public.” She encourages employees and those interested in joining the Public Service to, “Be willing to learn, be respectful; follow guidelines, rules and procedures. Do your service as unto the Lord and you will always find it rewarding.” Ms. Mitchell expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to have worked and served the employees of the Public Treasury Department.
“I am grateful for their support over the years and in particular the last three-and- a-half years as Treasurer. Without them I could not achieve some of the things we did as a department; it was their pulling together and making it happen. I hope that they continue to progress some of the projects we’ve started, serve with a spirit of excellence and move the department from strength-to-strength.”
She acknowledged her two daughters — Shantelle Lopez and Keisha Oliver; her sisters, pastors, including Assistant Pastor Ian Ferguson, and Apostle Ben Smith for their support throughout the years. As Ms. Mitchell officially ‘hangs up her hat’ she will transition into something that she is passionate about – Student Youth Advisory Services Bahamas — a non-profit organization that offers advice, mentors young persons on scholarships, colleges, careers and starting new businesses: “That’s where my passion is. I like to work with young people.” The outreach ministry, free of charge, will be officially launched in December.
The Public Treasury staff in ministries, departments and agencies throughout The Bahamas including Freeport and Abaco will celebrate ‘Mary Mitchell Day’ on Thursday, December 2, and they will hold a banquet in her honour, and in recognition of former Treasurers of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, on Friday. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)