March 25, 2023

The Editor Speaks: Auditor General not happy with government accounts

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Following on from Cayman Islands Auditor General Sue Winspear’s general unhappiness with the accounts of the Cayman Airways boards, she is now not happy with the Government Accounts.

Government needs to be more responsive to the recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) she said yesterday (Monday July 31).

The Cayman Islands Government has been slow to implement the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) recommendations, Winspear ssaid.

In a document she released with her report entitled “Follow-up on past PAC recommendations” her Executive Summary said:

The Cayman Islands Government is required to formally respond within three months of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) laying an Auditor General report in the House (Section 77(7) of the Legislative Assembly Standing Orders (2006 Revision)).
The PAC tabled eight reports in June 2016 and the Government was expected to formally respond by 30 September 2016. In my Quarterly update for September 2016 I reported that Government had not submitted its update within the three month statutory deadline. The Chairman of the PAC received a response from Government (referred to as the Government Minute) in October 2016. It provides Government’s formal response to the reports of the PAC and Auditor General and is based on views of the respective Chief Officers, Heads of Departments and Managing Directors within Cayman Islands Public Service.
The Government responded to the following reports in its Government Minute of October 2016:

• Financial and Performance Reporting – Entire Public Sector; Statutory Authorities and Government Companies; and Ministries, Portfolios and Offices for the years ending 30 June 2013 and 2014 (September 2015) – Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

• Government Programmes Supporting Those in Need (May 2015) – Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sport

• National Land Development and Government Real Property (June 2015) – Ministry of Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure

• Management of Travel and Hospitality Expenditures (May 2014) – Deputy Governor’s Office

• Collecting Government Revenues (September 2015) – Deputy Governor’s Office

• Government IT Security (September 2015) – Ministry of Home Affairs

• Major Capital Projects – Building Schools (May 2015) – Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs

• Management of the Nation Building Programme (July 2015) – Deputy Governor’s Office

Note: These were the responsible Ministries, Portfolios and Offices at the time of the PAC reports and those that responded in the Government Minute of October 2016. These have subsequently changed after the 2017 election.

“Government’s progress with implementing the recommendations in the eight PAC reports is mixed,” Winspear notes. “Encouragingly, almost all recommendations have been implemented for four reports, but the picture for the other four reports is less positive with only some progress made for two reports and limited progress for the other two reports.”

She added, “This means that some important matters remain outstanding up to two years after my office made the original recommendation to government. For example, Government has twelve difference social assistance programmes but without a social assistance strategy or even clear criteria for some of these programmes, Government cannot be certain that the budget for welfare is being spent effectively. I understand that this Government is now prioritising social welfare improvements and I look forward to hearing about plans for future actions at the PAC session on 16th August.”

In his reply, Chairman of PAC Ezzard Miller, said, “The members of the Cayman Islands Public Accounts Committee are planning to meet on 16 August 2017 to review the most recent audit report issued by the Office of the Auditor General. The Committee will be asking questions of government officials about the slow progress being made in implementing the Committee’s recommendations.

“As a Committee we are pleased that Government has taken action to implement the recommendations in four reports. However, we are disappointed that only some or limited progress has made with the other four reports. Some of the original Auditor General’s recommendations date as far back as May 2015 and limited progress had been made 18 months later. This is unacceptable. During the hearing, we will be asking Government about three reports in particular, covering important areas for the Cayman economy and people, such as Government programmes supporting those in need, collecting Government revenues and national land development. We will ask Government officials for further updates on progress and to provide clear explanations for any lack of progress. The Committee will be expecting clear commitments to timescales for full implementation of the recommendations. We will use the information from the hearings to support our own report to the Legislative Assembly.”

One thing we do know from Miller is he will not be slow in acting nor will he pull any of his punches. I would not like to be on the receiving end of them.

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