Miller goes full steam ahead with AG reports

| 31/07/2009

(CNS): As promised, the new chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has begun his mission to clear the backlog of reports completed by the auditor general and ensure that the committee puts the findings before the Legislative Assembly. Following the formation of the new PAC and his election as chair, Ezzard Miller announced that there were 10 reports that had yet to be tabled and he intended to get to grips with all of them. The committee has now arranged for witnesses to be called and reports to be completed on all but one of them.

The PAC had already made a decision after its first meeting to table the outdated 2003 CUC report without any major comments, save to say the report should be considered in any future negotiations with the power firm and that the AG take a look at the new licence to make sure it met his 2003 recommendations. During a two day session starting on Tuesday 28 July, members rattled through the rest of the list.

The committee has now arranged to call witnesses next week to quiz them on four of the outstanding reports, including the audit on the purchase of the police helicopter, the gasoline issue at Pedro St James, the Matrix scrap metal tender, and the government’s settlement with Cayman General on Hurricane Ivan.  With the exception of the Affordable Housing Report, which forms part of three other reports, the committee agreed to move forward on finalising their comments on all the other reports in order to submit them before the LA.

One of those will be the auditor general’s own report on Government Financial Statements for the year end 2004. Dan Duguay explained to CNS why that is the most recent report he has done on government spending – essentially the fundamental role of his office. “These reports are based on government spending and as the office has not yet collected a full and complete set of statements of government departments and authorities for any of the years since 2004, we can’t do our report,” Duguay said.

He explained, however, that it is in these reports where he may find anomalies or problems and make his recommendations for improving accountability for government spending. He says there are issues that come up in the audits that need to be brought to the attention of government — areas where lessons can be learned but would not necessarily justify a full special report in their own right.

Without the full set of reports from all the government entities, Duguay said it was not possible for his office to complete their overall audits. “This was what drove us to publish the first report on the state of financial accounting,” Duguay added. “At first we just used to talk about the delays by government departments, but then the delay became a national public issue of itself.”

Duguay said that no matter how late the reports are, he and his team would still complete an annual report for every year to ensure that there is a documented record of how and where government has spent public money, and if it did so with accountability and responsibility. He said that his office was currently working on an update of last year’s Financial Accountability Report for the PAC to examine so they would have a more up to date picture about the continued delays.

With the financial year 2008/09 now closed, Duguay also noted that all of the government accounts are due at the end of next month for this fiscal year, but he happily reported that he has already received one or two reports from the few usual departments that can be depended on to make them on time. “There are about a dozen government entities that manage to get their accounts in on time every year,” he added, giving credit he said where it was due to agencies such as CIMA, the NRA, the ICTA and of course his own office.

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