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Can both the Auditor Generals be wrong?

Colin Wilson

When I first arrived on these Islands thirty years ago the office of the Auditor General of the Cayman Islands was rarely, if at all, in the news. On the official Government website the office is described as: “The Auditor General of the Cayman Islands is an officer of the Legislative Assembly who audits government ministries and portfolios, most statutory authorities and government companies.”

He is appointed by the Governor and his reports had been largely ignored by the media because everything in our garden was growing beautifully. If he did say in his reports that the government was not providing proper and audited accounts on time or not following proper procedures it didn’t matter. This was paradise. Who cares? Don’t bother us with boring old numbers. Let’s get on with our wonderful life here. By the way, who is the Auditor General? What’s his name? Have I ever had a drink with him? You don’t know? Oh, well. He’s just another civil servant getting a fat cheque for doing nothing. Back to my hammock. Yawn.

Then things started to go wrong. It was 2004. The economy started to stagnate. It stopped growing. A new Auditor General arrived. His name – Dan Duguay. All was quiet at first except for a certain Hurricane Ivan that crashed through Grand Cayman in September. The PPM (People’s Progressive Movement) swept into power in 2005 and went on a spend, spend, campaign. It didn’t matter about budgets everything would be alright – it had in the past. At first Dan Duguay’s mutterings were mainly ignored. Then he got annoyed and went public. Government departments were not producing financial statements. The ones that did were not audited and years behind. “How can any government produce a budget each year when they don’t know what has been spent?” he asked. He questioned the amount of spending. He questioned why the procedures for tendering and awarding contracts were being ignored. The PPM leadership was angry with him. Words of “incompetence” were leveled at him. The media started to take more notice. The opposition, the UDP (United Democratic Party), bayed with laughter. They loved Dan Duguay.

In 2009 the UDP won power promising a curb on all the spending and ‘living within our means’. Dan Duguay had almost single-handedly won them the election, even though they didn’t realise it nor have they ever admitted it. Dan Duguay now started to castigate them and virtually the whole civil service. There was no proper accounting and all the procedures for awarding contracts ignored. He even criticised the premier, Hon McKeeva Bush. Name calling began. Mr. Duguay had no political friends – he had criticised publicly both parties. He had no friends in the civil service – they were definitely not going to be civil to him. His term of contract was coming up for renewal and the Cayman Islands had a new Governor, H.E. Duncan Taylor. Bowing to the overwhelming pressure and unfortunately not listening to the general public, Mr. Duguay was sent packing. It was a tearful goodbye. The premier, the Government and the whole Civil Service also wept – with pleasure. A huge sigh of relief. Now we can get along doing as we have for many years. They thought!

Alastair Swarbrick arrived as the new Auditor General. At first all was well. He had publicly said he would not make the ‘mistakes’ of his predecessor. Whatever those ‘mistakes’ were, Mr. Swarbrick has enraged the premier. The Auditor General’s latest report was made available to the media and the general public as soon as it was distributed to the Members of the Legislative Assembly. In fact, North Side MLA Mr. Ezzard Miller chose to disclose the report to a local radio station immediately and not wait the customary courtesy 48 hours for the MLAs to digest it. Manners and courtesy is sadly missing in today’s society – there just isn’t enough time for it.

The aforesaid report complained about a number of things Government and, in particular, the premier was doing in non compliance with guidelines and mandatory budgetary controls. Mr. Bush came back calling Mr. Swarbrick a “hitman and guilty of bureaucratic interference and harassment”.

As Mr. Swarbrick’s contract has only just started we should have some very interesting times in the future. But shouldn’t his report be adhered to? Shouldn’t steps be taken to make sure the laws of the Cayman Islands are obeyed especially when it’s public money being used?

But ……  perhaps both Auditor Generals are wrong? I want to go back to my hammock.


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