September 28, 2020

SPENDING TO BE REVEALED: Financial chief says to expect audit overview

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Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson

Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson said yesterday that the 31 October consolidation of government financial statements would offer the first full, audited overview of official performance in years.

The overview is made possible by the submission for the first time in at least eight years of all the annual financial reports from every government entity – ministries, portfolios, offices authorities and government companies – by the Auditor General’s 31 August deadline.

The achievement marks the first time in nearly a decade that the 39-agency “entire public sector” — 13 ministries, portfolios and offices, and 26 statutory authorities and government-owned companies — has complied with that due date.

The statements, detailing expenditures and outputs, account for the disbursement of public funds, enabling the Auditor General – and the Cayman Islands at large — to monitor government’s financial position.

“We got statements from everybody, and it’s good news, the first time it’s happened,” said Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, although mindful that he had not reviewed the reports.

“I can’t speak to the quality of information yet. We will do the audit work now, and whether the reports are good or bad, we will analyse and come to a view a little later,” he said.

Last week, Mr Swarbrick, anticipated he would make an announcement around 15 September.

Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson told iNews yesterday that the 31 August deadline formed a critical first step in gaining a picture of government performance.

“I regard this as a very important step, but what the public is interested in is step two,” he said. “Those 39 individual financial statements have to go through a consolidation process, they get put together and you get a set of statements that cover the government’s performance.

“The first set,“ he said, “cover the central government, so you know what central government’s performance is like.

“In addition, you put the other 26 along with the central government so you know what is the performance of the entire public sector,” Mr Jefferson said.

“Being individual building blocks, you consolidate them,” by 31 October, he said, gaining the first audited overview of government finances in many years.

Cayman’s annual budgets, he explained, contained consolidated statements from the previous year, and projections for the coming year, offering a sense of government’s financial position, but rarely had the position been officially audited.

He credited Premier McKeeva Bush, and said two subcommittees had ensured completion of the process.

“A coordination team divided the public service into more manageable chunks, certain members took certain ministries and others, and they met very frequently with the chief financial officers.

“Sitting over that was an oversight body of me, Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks and Deputy Financial Secretary Sonia McLaughlin,” he said. “We met weekly with the coordination team to detail the progress made by the CFOs. This evolved over several months.”

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick

Last week, Mr Bush called the 31 August compliance “a great accomplish-ment”, crediting “government’s drive and determination to achieve the expectations of the law and those of the public”.

Speaking to iNews yesterday, he thanked the civil service.

“I’m very pleased to see this requirement met. We as a Cabinet gave a commitment to have this done after finding the mess with the accountants, that there were no accounts for four years,” he said.

“There was a serious effort by civil servants to accomplish this and we are very thankful to civil servants for getting this done,” he said.

“My government congratulates all public servants on this accomplishment.”

 

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