No more excuses, says Miller

| 12/05/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island headline news, Cayman finance(CNS): The chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) pushed hard for real commitments from government and public sector management on Tuesday as he told them there would be no more excuses over the failure to deliver their accounts for public scrutiny. Following a full day of witness representations to PAC on the auditor general’s report about the failure of financial accountability, PAC chair Ezzard Miller said the audit office should now issue qualified opinions or disclaimers, if necessary, on whatever the ministries and government authorities had submitted for their backlogged accounts. No matter how poor quality or inadequate it was, Miller said, it was simply time to get the accounts done.

The PAC chair said there was no longer any point in chasing information lost in Hurricane Ivan or misplaced three or four years ago. The best way forward for the auditor general’s office, he said, was to take whatever the CFOs gave them from all of the back dated fiscal years and simply audit what it got instead of waiting on government entities endlessly while they found the necessary information to explain their financial statements.
“I have told all the CFOs now that if they cannot find a piece of paper or document to stop looking and accept the qualified accounts and move on. We can’t be forever looking for a piece of paper that Ivan washed away,” he said.
Miller explained that while this would mean government accounts for 2005/06, 06/07 would carry a significant number of disclaimers and or qualified responses, it would at least enable the CFOs to learn from those qualified accounts and move on to more up to date and meaningful accounts to present to the Legislative Assembly. Although it is normally an unusual situation for auditors to be forced to give disclaimers or adverse comments on audits, Miller said this was preferable to the current stalemate.
“My job is to get the public accurate accounts from government but if it’s impossible to get accurate accounts I must at least try and get some accounts. If we can then get those audited in whatever state — at least we can give the public something and by fiscal year end ’08 we should start to see something we can recognise and use,” the PAC chair added.
Miller has now set a target date in September 2010 for every government entity to have all of the information each one can with the Auditor General’s Office for the years up to 08/09, giving the AG’s office the chance to audit everything regardless of the quality of information.
As chief officers and financial officers from the various ministries, portfolios, statutory authorities and government companies began filing through the committee room to discuss the State of Government Financial Accountability Reporting, the common ground appeared to be the problem of the quality of information being given to the audit office, which Acting Auditor General Garnett Harrison pointed out was often not sufficient for the auditors to do their work.
As a result, the public sector accountants have become bogged down in looking for information to prevent receiving qualified reports, adverse comments or ,worse, a disclaimer from the AG’s office. Harrison also explained that on some occasions the quality of information given to the office was so poor it was literally impossible for them to do even do any kind of audit.
Numerous difficulties from changes in ministry department line ups, lack of resources, the onerous nature of the Public Management and Finance Law, staff turnover and training problems, difficulties with the government internal reporting system, inherited errors in accounts procedures, the transformation from ministry to statutory authority, Hurricane Ivan, and in the case of UCCI, a criminal investigation, were all cited as reasons for the problems government entities had in addressing the accounting backlog.
Miller asked each CO and FO that came to the committee table to make a commitment to have all of their financial statements and verifying information with the auditor’s office by September of this year, and most said they would do their very best to do that. He said he no longer wanted to get hung up on excuses and while the accounts were unlikely to be perfect he just wanted to see them get done.
During the questioning of the HSA representatives Miller made it plain that this was the last deadline. “We are not going to tolerate any more excuses,” he said. “Ivan is long gone and we’ve heard it all before; that is in the past. What we want now is a commitment going forward that accounts will be completed by September and all the information given to the auditors.”
In the interest of moving forward, the decision was taken that the AG’s office will now audit whatever comes its way, the CFO’s will accept the auditors findings on the backlogs, signing off even on disclaimed audits, and move on to work on their more up to date and relevant accounts with the help of a dedicated representative from the AG’s office.
 A number of CFOs also asked for a dedicated member of the special accounting task force set up by government last year to assist in the current backlog. The AG’s office agreed to supply the PAC with an up to date schedule of where each of the government entities were to help monitor the situation.
The PAC hearing on The State of Financial Accountability Reporting continues on Thursday.
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Comments (26)

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  1. Joe Mamma says:

    Mr. Ezzard, isn’t holding the ones responsible accountable (fireing ,arresting, investigating, etc.)  your job?   If I was your boss I would start there and work my way all the way to the bottom of this mess.

    Butt then again I didn’t get any of the unaccountable money.

  2. eyes open says:

    In the interest of moving forward or in the interest of allowing those responsible for a great deal of money not being accounted for a continued license to steal?  Yes in this current system of everyone involved watching each others back it would be cost prohibited to investigate but why let them continue?  Same people same problem later.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Seriously! Some people need to be fired from their posts. This mess is out of hand…. I wonder if we are paying overtime to the same people who put the accounts in this mess?

  4. Anon says:

    Wish I knew who these (2) thumbs down are.  Sure seem to hate transparency.

    • Anon says:

      (1)  the Premier

      (2) the Finance Minister

      No I’m not being serious but I think you can get the jist!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Ezzard,

    It is not up to the Auditor General to solve the accounting/financial problems of Government.  That is why you have a Financial Secretary, a multitude of Deputy Financial and Assistant Financial Secretaries, a Minister of Finance, a Budget Management Unit, a Treasury, an Accountant General, and individual departmental CFOs (just to name a few!) who have responsability for Government budgets, spending and accountability.  The Auditor General’s job is simply to audit those accounts (accurately completed with all supporting documentation) presented to him.  To now blame him and his small office for the financial woes of government is irresponsible but more importantly, inaccurate.  Sir, learn who is responsible for what before allocating blame where blame does and does not belong. 

  6. papercaymanian says:

    Isn’t it interesting how the AG gets blamed as he is leaving his post.I also am not a fan of Mr. Miller but he is almost being a voice of reason.Between his xenophobic rants he is actually trying to get his job done. Because he is the only independent MLA you have to wonder if Mr.Miller is being set up as the scapegoat for the accounts fiasco.

    I was listening to MLA Tibbets on Cross Talk explain why we need 18 MLA’sas per the constitution. His words actually described the need for 9 MLA’s instead of 18.Typical elected official thinking.

     

  7. Voice of Reason says:

     A politician shifting the blame? Who would have thought it!

    Slack, corrupt and beyond belief.

    These people know who they are and are a shame not only on their own families but the extended family which are the people of the Cayman Islands.

    Too busy eating the golden egg to realise they are strangling the goose that laid it. 

    Isn’t it the same with crime? Plenty of people know who the guilty parties are but will not speak out. Sticking their heads in the sand and hoping that "it will sort itself out". In the long run more damage is done and the underlying problem remains unsolved.

    Ultimately though, should we be surprised? Isn’t this what should be expected on an island where most of the people in charge and those working under them have been greasing each other’s palms for such a long time? A system which has a fundamental principle of self-protectionism and the appointment of quangos has only one thing in store for it – a very bleak future.

  8. Joe Bananas says:

    Incompetence compounded by politics.  Persons getting paid good money for poor performance backed by bosses who get paid huge money for covering it all up.  And at the very top an equally unqualified and non performer whose sole job is to protect the Government from the very people who pay all their salaries.  Any guesses as to how much of this money was redirected?  No need to guess as to how many of the "responsible" people will be held accountable as we all watch to see how the Government will now cover their collective asses by discrediting and or getting rid of any evidence and pushing for and end full of excuses forgiveness.  Respect?   Not even close.

  9. Scaremongers! says:

    Is "headache" dialect for rampant corruption and favors done to friends and families?

  10. Ezzard Miller says:

    It should also be pointed out that the picture painted by the Auditor General in his 08 report and the 2010 update report that the Government departments had not done any accounting or submitted any accounts to his office is not entirely accurate as was demonstrated by several witness yesterday. The "in progress" reports listed in the 2010 report are not accounts as indicated by the report but audits by the AG’s office. We heard evidence supported by e-mails yesterday where Government departments had submitted their financial statements to the AG and a year later they were requested by the AG to resubmit them and where accounts were being held up because the AG wanted a copy of the lease for a police station in Cayman Brac that was signed in 1945.

    The point I wish to make here is that the AG is not blameless in this fiasco and all parties, core Government, the AG’s office, the Ministry of Finance and the PAC must now work together to resolve this matter and this is why the PAC has asked the AG’s office to bring a progress report with its monthly bill so the PAC can keep this matter moving forward.

    I would hope that all in Government would agree with the suggestion that any CFO/CO that does not submit their accounts for 2009/10 financial year to the AG before August 31st 2010 and receives a disclamer from the AG’s office on this years account should be terminated. We also expect the AG’s office to complete its audit by October 31st 2010 as provided for in the PMFL.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for your persistence. 

      As a North Sider who does not always agree with you, I sincerely hope that meant what you have written here today and that you will maintain the strong position in your last paragraph. Please bring a motion to the LA in September stating that the LA has no confidence in any CFO/CO who does not turn in the required accounts and demanding that every CFO/CO who fails in this task must be removed from their posts. That is probably the only way that change will ever occur, and the only way that the public will get value for money from these senior civil servants.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sir,

      Your witnesses do not testify under oath and since they have not completed their accounts AS PER THE LAW what makes you so sure they are telling you the truth now.  If you look at the report provided by the Auditor General’s Office you do see the truth……….sending an email with an attachment does not constitute submitting your accounts ON TIME.  It merely shows that you sent an email.  As the Acting Auditor General stated some of these entities sent documents that were so inaccurate that they could not be audited.  Sir, you are supposed to read the reports, prepare questions and seek the advice of the AG’s office in preparation for Public Accounts Meetings and not simply show up, ask a witness a question and accept that answer as the truth.  You are supposed to seek re-dress to problems discovered and reported on by your Auditor General’s Office.  Stop playing the blame game, stop laying the blame at the door of the AG’s office and set it back squarely where it belongs, with the politicians, including yourself, who keeps promising we will see audited accounts in the next 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and the government entities that laugh in your face and lie to the Public Accounts Committee.

      • Anonymous says:

        It seems that as long as Ezzard gets his on air time and attention that the content is really secondary.

        Given the departments of government which have effectively stone walled the politicians regarding departmental cuts and the lack of accounting within the government.

        The civil servants know that politicians are trying to look to the public like they are doing something and actual change is totally different.

        Politicians want and need the civil servants votes and will not press them too har and will always speak in generalities and specifics will never be dealt with.

        Expats like the former AG wil get slammed as they don’t enjoy the vote but no voter like the person running the governmental gasoline program will everbe touched.

        Double standard you say, you bet…

         

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Mr Miller for a fair and balanced comment. That ideal is lacking in most reporting in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am so not a fan of Mr Miller’s it’s not funny but on this occasion I think he is playing fair and sensibly. Many of us have known for a long time that St Dan’s reports blasting the CFOs have been overblown and self serving. The year long delay and the police station on Cayman Brac story reveals the sort of unreasonable nonsense he has put the civil servants through without giving their side of the story. Also, there is/was a competence (ie lack of it) issue inside the Audit Office which is recognised within the Civil Service and which, to be fair, Duguay tried to address.

  11. Anonymous says:

     The time to get the accounts done were months and years ago. I applaud Mr Miller’s effort.

  12. Joe Grinder says:

    And most said they would do there very best? there very best is avoiding the reality.there very best is knowing they can’t get fired.there very best is not doing nothing and wait for …..what?.theres no teeth for them to do anything .Yes Ezzard has good sound bites but he has no legal bites,they know that .Ezzard sounds good every Tuesday ,with his dog and pony show.He has no power to do anything.So Ezzard why don’t you say "If you don’t have your finical statements up to date by September ,you and your department will be FIRED".Of course tomorrow  the sky will be purple.Because none of this going to happen.Does anyone remember the Superman comics ,where there was this world that everything was opposite to your reality .It was called Bizzaro World.Welcome

  13. islandman says:

    Any accountant held accountable?…Oh yeah, this is Govt. no need for such!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Take it from an accountant, one who actually produces financial statements, on a monthly basis, can you imagine?  You won’t be getting any. If they haven’t produced accounts yet it is simply because they don’t know what they are doing. 

  15. Anonymous says:

    Anyone fired?

     

    • Roadblogger says:

      Top Ten Reasons For Not Having Government Accounts Up To Date:

      #10. changes in ministry department line ups, #9. lack of resources, #8. the onerous nature of the public management and finance law, #7. staff turnover and training problems, #6. difficulties with the government internal reporting system, #5. inherited errors in accounts procedures, #4. the transformation from ministry to statutory authority, #3. Hurricane Ivan, and  in the case of UCCI #2. a criminal investigation,

      And….. the #1 reason given by FCO’s for not having government accounts up to date!

      drum roll

      They have headaches

    • Anonymous says:

       yep! the Auditor General!!!