UCCI case ‘too slow’, says AG

| 11/05/2010

(CNS): What was a relatively straight forward fraud has taken too long to be resolved, the auditor general said on his last day in post as he talked with CNS about unfinished business. Dan Duguay explained that while the audit office had for its part finished its audit into what had happened to public funds at the University College of the Cayman Islands and the apparent fraud by the former president, exactly one year on since Duguay handed over the information to police they had still not concluded their criminal investigations. He said he still hoped it would come to some fruition as he felt the people of the Cayman Islands deserved some answers.

“This has gone too slowly in my opinion and I have told every commissioner that has come here, including the interim ones, that it was a relatively straight forward fraud,” said Duguay. “We gave the police most of the information, though to be fair they did find other things we had not found, but by now that should have come to some fruition and it has not.”
He said the office had raised its concerns with the police that there had been no conclusions or public disclosure on what had happened. He said it was a substantial amount of public money that was lost and that there should be some explanation.
Duguay warned that the perceptions people would have as a result of the lack of closure were ones of suspicion. “As weeks and weeks go by with the police saying they have nothing to report, people get suspicious,” he added, saying that rightly or wrongly the public would perceive somebody must be covering something up.
After six years in office Duguay departed on Friday, 7 May, after what he said was a particularly busy time with three important reports being published and circulated publicly in the last few months. However, the office was continuing on with a number of other important audits, he said.
One area that his office had been examining and would continue to do was the schools projects. “The AG’s office has been talking to government for many months regarding the schools,” Duguay said, explaining that the current government had asked for advice on a number of issues relating to the projects in the wake of problems with the original contractor and how best to find a construction manager to pick up the pieces. Duguay said it was not necessarily a bad thing but given the size of the project the audit should take a look at the tendering process, for both the original and what will now be new contracts, as well as the project itself.
The exiting AG said the Government Office Accommodation Building was also on the audit office’s radar but so far it appeared to be both on time and under budget. Duguay said that it had been set to be a good news audit except for recent concerns that had been brought to his office’s attention about some changes to the original furnishingcontract, which the audit office was now examining.
“If the contract has been changed then the office would wantto look at that,” Duguay said, adding that it does not automatically mean it’s a bad thing, but if a contract is changed after its awarded and it appears to have gone to a more expensive bid, this is the kind of question that an auditor general should be asking, Duguay pointed out. “It’s not necessarily wrong but when you hear things like that this it makes you want to investigate them. If there was any kind of change the office would want to see those changes had been made properly.”
Another unfinished project for Duguay that his team is now working on is an examination of how custom duty waivers are introduced and managed for specific developers. Duguay said there were a number of questions to be asked, such as what research are such decisions based on and how much does it actually cost or benefit government to implement them.
“The question of how government manages customs duty waiver programmes has been something that the office has had concerns about for some time, going back to the waivers given to the Ritz-Carlton when that was under development,” Duguay stated. “How does the information get to people, how much is it going to cost?” Duguay asked, adding that government has the right to give waivers but it should be called on to account for what revenue is lost as a result of such decisions and in face of what gains if any.
Duguay noted that while there were many other projects under consideration by the office the arrival of a new auditor meant his team would now have to wait and give consideration to what the new man may consider to be a priority. While there was plenty of unfinished business for the team he leaves behind, Duguay said his successor would now be the one to assess what would be the next report from the AG’s office.
Duguay leaves Garnett Harrison as Acting Auditor until the arrival of Alistair Swarbrick from Scotland, who has been given the contract to serve as the office’s next auditor general. CNS has contacted Swarbrick for comment on his new post and the various issues surrounding the government accountability and transparency, among other controversies. However, the new AG refused to comment, save to say he was “delighted to have been appointed as the Auditor General of the Cayman Islands” and that he was “looking forward to working with the Cayman Islands Audit Office team in the interests of the people.”
The last and most controversial of Duguay’s reports, the State of Financial Accountability, will be the subject of the PAC’s examination of witnesses on Tuesday.
Since taking office Duguay has proved to be an advocate of transparency and openness. However, many, including himself, believe that his decision to discuss his findings openly have also played a part in the controversy that has surrounded his reports. Check back to CNS this week for much more on Duguay’s review of his time shining a light on the Cayman Islands Government books.
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Comments (16)

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  1. Bobby Anonymous says:

    The AG shuld be put in place by the UK Gov. That way NO one can interfear with his job and get rid of him.

    If certain people don’t agree with his findings,then they can appeal, just like everything else.

    The public MUST be shown some accountability for what THEIR money is being spent on!!

    • Dan Duguay says:

      The Auditor General is a constitutional officer and under the Constitution the AG is appointed by the Governor. Although the Governor may take any advice that he wishes, in the final analysis the appointment is made by him

      One issue that I believe should be addressed is the term of the AG. My appointments were for 3 years and it is my understanding that the incoming AG will also be offered a 3 year contract. As I have stated publicly, I believe the term should be longer so as to increase the independence of the position. For example, the Complaints Commissioner has a 5 year contract

      • Chris Johnson says:

        I completely concur with Dan’s remarks. The next AG will be delving in the past and most likely never see anything current before his term of office is up.Perhaps we should put an archeologist on the payroll as well as the AG.

      • Scrooge McDuck says:

        Dan,

        Now that you’re not working there anymore.

        How bad is it?

        Is it real bad??  They won’t tell us you know.

        Shh!!!!  Just nod!!

        If you do tell us use some sort of code because… ya know what happens.

        🙂  means…it’s ok

        🙁  means you..know..what

        Thanks.  And don’t use your real name

  2. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it interesting that UCCI under this former president was one of the few institutions who actually submitted thier financial statements to the Auditor General on time – and was up to date.

    This suggests to me, if not obvious to all, he was not trying too hard to hide his financial activity. It was an inappropriate accounting system allowed by the accountant – but from the little information that has been released – it appears that he was gradually paying off his personal expenses, through some system set up/allowed by the accountant – up to the time of his departure.

    Also, the treatment in this case seems unbalanced – given more than a dozen heads of ministries, departments and authorities who have not even handed thier books into the AG’s office in years. And given the way this is being treated – when compared to, for example, UK MP expense fiasco. And that the press has essentially treated him as guilty (yes innocence until proven guilty applies to all) – and most of what has been reported has been unsubstantiated accusations by journalists.

    Further, when balanced by the immensely positive impact he did have when he was here – and the many individuals (at risk young Caymanians especially) he impacted in significant and often life changing ways.

    At a minimum – the press – and the Auditor General  – should uphold the principle of innocence until/unless proven otherwise – for all.

    • Whodunit says:

      You’re right…innocent until proven guilty. 

      But this item is interesting:

      Hassan Syed, former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI), has resigned his new executive position at Toronto’s Centennial College, citing “an urgent family matter”, according to school officials.

      “He joined Centennial College on 2 June, and has since tendered his resignation,” said Mark Toljagic, Centennial Marketing and Communications Officer, speaking on behalf of David Johnson, Dean of the School of Business.  Mr Syed left the Cayman Islands in early May in the wake of an Auditor-General report describing “financial irregularities” in the president’s office.

      While officials have declined to release details of the report, some have pegged misappropriations as high as $250,000. At his departure, Mr Syed cited health problems, claiming he was entering a Toronto-area hospital for brain surgery to treat blood clots.

      He resigned his UCCI post on 12 May. A subsequent search of Toronto-area hospitals tuned up no records of Mr Syed’s admission.

      “He told [Dean] Johnson that there was a family matter he had to attend to and requested a leave of absence; then recently he sent an email tendering his resignation.

      The college “was not aware” that Mr Syed’s claimed doctoral degree was false.

      While not naming a date for Mr Syed’s resignation, Mr Toljagic said the email had come “within the last couple of days”, following a Friday, 27 June discussion between Mr Johnson and a Cayman Islands reporter.

      In that case Mr. Syed should return to Cayman to clear his name. 

      If that is his name.

       

       

       

       

       

      • Anonymous says:

        When you check in to a hospital – you can do so and have your stay not ‘listed’ publically. This is quite standard. To protect patients privacy.

        Leave the investigating to the law.

        Currently there is not even a charge against the man.

         

        • Whodunit says:

          You’re splitting hairs. But let’s follow it.  1.  Why did he use a UCCI credit card to purchase alcohol, gifts, and jewelry?  2.  Why did he falsify his degree?  3.  Why did he give himself unauthorized salary advances?  4. Why did he skip town for an "brain operation" when the AG began enquiries?  3.  After a miraculous recovery why did he take up a post somewhere else?  And then, 4.  Why did he email his resignation to that organization shortly thereafter on hearing of an impending interview with a reporter from Cayman saying that he had an urgent "family matter"?

          C’mon!  As you say maybe he hasn’t been charged.  Because maybe he made off with all the evidence?… or shredded it.

          Whatever the reason …something stinks.

          Signed,

          The President of the United States.  Believe me?  Thought you would.

          • Anonymous says:

            At the risk of being ridiculed as someone who might well believe a news report that Elvis had just crashed a UFO into the Loch Ness Monster, the fact remains that Dr.Syed remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The poster’s questions  – searching as they may be – are those of a proficient investigating officer only.They do not establish the innocence or guilt of anyone, including Dr.Syed. That’s how our system of justice works.

             
            • Whodunit says:

              It is not "Dr." Syed.  The "innocent" Dr. Syed you refer to falsified his credentials.

              He will be back any day now to clear this all up.

              Would you like to buy some Florida swampland? Then how about property on the Moon?

  3. Joe Average says:

    Mr. Duguay,

    You have our sincerest thanks for the job you performed as Auditor General.  Although you had no intention of being a hero, and it wasn’t part of your job description the audits you performed and the treatment you received made you one. 

    All the best! 

    Wish us luck! 

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yes but they have time for dog napping charges/cases?

  5. Mr. Two Cent says:

    Maybe the Government should just close down the Auditor General Department completely and save some money. I mean what is the sense to have someone employed and paying them over $120K p.a. to produce reports for almost six years only to have them sit in the drawer and collect dust?? And not to mention that he’s actually criticized when he does what he’s being paid to do.. now I see why Gov’t has so many persons on PAID- ‘required leave’. Paying them to stay home. But then again they might as well stay home, because there are those that will come in to the office and don’t do anything (and get paid) and those that come in to the office to work, and your employer doesn’t want you to.. IDK! And as far as the UCCI case as well as the others, I don’t think that they are moving too slow, I think that they are pretty near inexistent.

    • The other AG says:

      NO!!!
      Close down the other AGs office as that serves no use as it just a mouth peice for McKeeva Bush!

      See if anything comes of the assault case at the Tourist Condominium!

  6. Da Bracstter says:

    Everybody on this island know exactly who the good doctor was hanging out with at the local hotspots and i am not talking about the gov’t minister either. What a Country Yakov Smirnof