Public accounts poor quality

| 10/01/2012

P1100024 (239x300).jpg(CNS): Although government has made strides on the timely submissions of public accounts to his office, the auditor general says there are still significant concerns about the quality of the information, especially by ministries and portfolios, being submitted. Alastair Swarbrick said Tuesday that while there had been a significant effort to address the backlog and meet reporting deadlines, government must now focus on the quality of the information being presented for audit. In his latest report on the progress made by government on financial reporting and performance accountability he said the goal now is for government to match improvements in timeliness with improvements in quality.

He said that although eight entities still failed to make the deadline for the 2010/11 financial year end accounts, 30 public authorities, ministries and portfolios had made the 31 August date, giving his office enough to begin the audit process.

However, the public auditor said it was difficult to say whether the quality of information submitted would mean that the first set of consolidated government accounts since the Public Management and Finance Law was implemented some eight years ago would be of sufficient quality to enable the public to gain a comprehensive view of how government has spent public money in the last financial year.

When the accounts are audited however, Swarbrick said his office would assist in the interpretation of the results and hopefully help the public understand what the results mean. He also said the production of the consolidated accounts still represented a significant step in the right direction.

Although quick to congratulate government on the efforts made, Swarbrick warned that getting accounts in on time was only the first step in the process of government's accountability to legislators and the public at large.

The quality and credibility of the accounting and performance information government submits for audit is important, he said, as the reports are fundamental when it comes to informing legislators and the public how the dollars collected from them in duties and fees are used.

“It is important that legislators and decision makers have good financial information on which to base their decisions,” Swarbrick said. “The information has to be as reliable and accurate as possible as well as timely.” He explained that the information is how legislators hold government to account for the money it has spent and how money should be used and appropriated in future years.

“It is very important for the general public to be able to see how the fees and duties they have paid have been used and what the position of government is. It also informs their own debate about how money should be used and spent,” Swarbrick added.

The auditor general warned that, despite the efforts of government to address the backlog and submit  accounts to his office on time, he would still be issuing qualified opinions because in many cases, the ministries and portfolios in particular, the starting point for the accounts is based on unreliable information.

Swarbrick said that his office would be able to give a more detailed review of the state of the government's accounts in his next quarterly review but what was clear now was the need for the administration to focus on quality. The audit office, he said, would do all it could to help government entities improve the credibility of the information they submit to his office.

The auditor warned again that even when the timeliness and quality of submissions improves the reports need to be in the public domain as soon as possible and he noted that 61 completed and audited reports had still not been tabled in the Legislative Assembly and were still not public documents.

He acknowledged that the immense backlog of reports had played a part in the failure of ministries to table the finished reports but he pointed to the fundamental point of them being made public.

As government goes to work in an effort to create consolidated accounts for the financial year end 30 June 2011, most of the reports for the year ending June 2010, which relates to the UDP's first financial year in office, have not yet been tabled.

The majority of those reports have been audited but 28 of the 38 reports have still not been made available to the public. 

In his report Swarbrick also reveals that Cayman Airways, the museum, the National Drug Council, the gallery, the tourism attraction board, the turtle farm, UCCI and the housing trust on the Sister Islands were the only public entities that submitted insufficient information for audit for the last financial year.

See full government accounts update report here

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Category: Politics

Comments (39)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    what do u all expect – the bunch who brought in FMI are still holding on to it, but did not consult the workers First, and are still benefitting from their special contracted positions… retirement age or not 😉

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can't figure it out, accountants always dress so nice and go to church…they couldn't possibly be earning above average wages and yielding below average quality… its so NON-SEQUITUR???  We all need to pray, and hopefully in the process we can rationalize away the obvious…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Time to hire the expats back to do the work needed then you can roll them over when your done with them.  Caymankind.

    • Anonymous says:

      time for the joke about how many accountants it takes to change a lightbulb?


      Government has too many and they are confusing each other.

  4. Anonymous says:

     What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. —   Edward Langley , Artist (1928-1995)

  5. Anonymous says:

    The trouble is Cayman is imploding. The three unofficial pillars of our society have caught up with us, poor education, entitlement and patronage. Until these issues are seriously addressed business will go elsewhere, crime will increase,  and the division between local and expat will increase.

    Just think of the message we are sending to the world. "We are a world class financial centre, but we can't produce our own accounts." The message might as well read "We are no longer a legitimate financial centre. Stay away." 

    Responsible advisors can only justify passing on so much cost to clients. The cost of doing business, and living here, is atrocious. This is all thanks to government incompetence, neglect, red tape, patronage and xenophobia. 

    What a chuckle our competitors must get when reading such stories. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well, the Captain of the ship didn't finish high school, so what do you expect?  It amazes me that there is no campaign to unseat the fat cat MLAs at the top of the food chain who refuse to retire or take their oversight responsibilities seriously.  There really are no dazzlingcredentials to intimidate and discourage the boatloads of jobless young Caymanians we hear about.  Hey kids, why not form a new party and run for office?   You will be paid a 6 figure income, plus simultaneously draw down a pension with absolutely no responsibility!  If your choices are unpopular, or you are removed from office by the governor, just wait a couple years and try again!  It has got to be the plummest gig in the Caribbean, and we're the suckers!

  7. Anonymous says:

    A random number scrawled on a soggy Turtle Farm napkin is still better than what we had before.

  8. Knot S Smart says:

     I will  call the Minister of Finance and have a talk about this – then report it to our Premier!

    Wait. Who is the Minister of Finance?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Old pirate i have never seen a more accurate and brutal assessment of how government is run and oppressively operated. The only aspect you omitted was that some have been their so long and some of these johnny come latelys appear to believe that it is their right to continue enriching themselves by government working for them. The really sad part is that those who govern these islands continue to allow it to happen and do nothing to remedy or address situation. This appears to us the public that they are complicit and derive some benefit in this situation continuing..

    It is said that the accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Would someone please tell the gowerment about Quickbooks Pro!

    • Anonymous says:

      Surely you understand that would lead to dangerous and unacceptable levels of transparency…

  11. Anonymous says:

    Who Audits the Auditor? The National Gallery and the National Museum are both currently being audited by big 4 accounting firms, yet, the Auditor General comes out and say that the information provided was not enough to begin an Audit.

    CNS you are welcome to call those Agencies, ask for the name of their Auditors and independently verify this information.

    There is also a contradiction in the Compass news story when the Auditor General says "The Sister Islands Affordable Housing submitted 5 years of financials on August 31st and that is going to take time to Audit" now, why would it take time to Audit if the information is unauditable?

    Very often the Civil Service gets thrown under the bus by those who have a platform with the media. The people who know different never gets an opportunity or an audience to set the record straight and so the public is left with the wrong perception.

    I am not here to defend the Civil Service insofar as saying all the accounts are perfect, there is much work to be done before everyone will receive unqualified opinions and the public will rightfully continue to throw licks at the Government as they go down the road to that goal. However, I believe credit should be given where credit is due and the in this case, the Auditor General erred on at least 4 of the Agencies he said did not provide enough information to Audit.

    Don't take my word for it, FOI is there, ask for the submissions yourself and make your own judgements. 

    CNS: No government agency has to wait for an FOI request to release information. All of these entities are welcome to send us the relevant documentation if they believe that there is insufficient information in the public domain for the public to judge them fairly. For a start, where there are independent audits, these could be published on their websites.

    • Anonymous says:

      It has always bothered me that in the UK there's only one Monopolies Commission!

  12. Simon says:

    3rd World Country, same type government. Why should you expect anything different?

    • Anonymous says:

      It's all about education.  Overall, those running the country do not have the formal education to make a half-decent job of it; and those running the civil service the same.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The civil servants think that "accrual" accounting is actually "cruel" accounting.


    Either way, it assumes that civil servants know how to add, subract, and file invoices correctly.


    It's a real streatch of the immagination. Maybe, over time, we will get better.

    • Anonymous says:

      The old joke.

      Why do public servants (particularly police officers) go round in threes?

      To make sure there's one who can read, one who can write and one who can do the math.

      And that's a LOL!!!


  14. Anonymous says:

    So the statements are crap.


    So some of the government entities are trying to "game" the system.


    At least they submitted their crap on time. That is small, abeit real, progress.


    After review, maybe some of them will "get it" and submit something that is auditable. I hope that they do this.


    Real progress is always slow. Full marks for the previous (many thanks, Dan) and the current (many thanks, Alistair) Auditor Generals.


    There is hope, maybe good governance will blossom in Cayman in the far distant future after some of the current XXXXXXXX managers (aka "leaders") die off.


    Readers, please fill in the "XXXXX" blank with your favourite adjective that CNS usually "exes" out.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if any of the many govt accountants are actually Chartered, or just how prevalent the more typical "or 5 years experience" got them in?

    • Just Sayin says:

      I hate to say it but sometimes having  “CPA” or “ACCA” or “CGA” or whatever other accounting qualification exists don’t mean nothing. I have actually met  some individuals with no formal qualifications who have a lot more clue than those with the fancy title and big salary so if you are depending on the title to give them credibility, think again!

      • Anonymous says:

        Of course there are folks with natural ability, but would you trust an unqualified surgeon to do a bit of heart surgery on you?

        Caymans problem is that it has a load of civil servants who have neither natural ability nor qualifications, and so there is a dearth of people who even understand the need for proper accounts. This problem is not so much on the shop floor, but in its management, I well recall asking the stats department for figures for the banking sector and hearing that they hadnt been processed for years despite all the banks having submitted the numbers each quarter.

        I also remember being the Financial Secretary publicly berating me for saying so, he said it put Cayman in a bad light, but in truth, it was the inaction/incompetence of his own department that made Cayman look stupid.

        Looking stupid when you claim to be a finance centre is bad enough, but even worse is the skulduggery that can take place behind bad accounting, and in my humble opinion, thats why those that should care about it dont want any real change!

        • Anonymous says:

          Its a sad state of affairs…there are more than enough statistical minded persons on the Island, and if history is any indicator, look at what Deemings did for Japan.

        • Anonymous says:

          PLEASE…comparing accounting to surgery is like comparing atari 2600 to X-box 360.  

          • Anonymous says:

            Come now, your expertise is clearly computer games, the point is that first, you should use suitable people, professionally qualified or qualified by experience, and second you should ensure they are managed to produce results. Historically neither of these things have happened. With apologies to the medical profession!  

            • Anonymous says:

              I agree with you, in fact I agree doubly with you since I think much of accounting is an over-rated skill that new computer systems will make obsolete in 20 years -just need the right minded leaders and not the usual hacks who make jobs that waste peoples times as opposed to making jobs that increase the value of an establishment.



  16. Shock and Awe says:

    Like the Premier has said, the members of those agencies and portfolios should be congratulated for the tremendous amount of dedication and hard work involved. Stuffing paper bags with receipts, invoices, scraps of paper, candy bar wrappers etc. And delivering them on time.

  17. Anonymous says:

    They made the deadline but produced a bundle of s—-. That's our highly paid, pension- and- health- care- provided- free of cost civil service for you. Let's wait for the complaints about how it couldn't be done because blah blah……………..

  18. Just an Old pirate in Gowerment says:

    Ahoy there! Mr Swar Brick or wha ever your name is Now listen yarrrrr i have been in this gowerment for over a half Scentury we do tings diffeerent here ya see You better feel darm luckyyy you get dem deer accounts to work wid. The fleecing of the Cayman Islands government is going to continue until they uproot this old boy network along with their corrupt apparatus and political helpers . I do not see that happening anytime in the naaaar future either, what we see is the old guard now recruiting and propping up their exact clones to continuing the fleecing and manipulation of the system. Aaaaaarrrrrr Ahoy there matey make the honest civil servants walk the plank it sends the message to rest to keep in line or else and to keep yarrrr mouths shut!

  19. Anonymous says:

    time for a pay rise for the good folks in the civil service!

  20. Anonymous says:

    "Public accounts poor quality" – no, really?  

  21. Anonymous says:

    Mac and his administration obviously understand the truth in the cliche, "if you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with b******t."  Bad information is no better than no information.  Which still leaves us wondering:  WHAT IS THE FINANCIAL STATE OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS GOVERNMENT?

    • Theo says:

      Hey,  it is unreal that the books and/or accounts of the Government are poor quality now a days.  Before 2004 we had how many Auditor General 2 or 3, not sure, doesnt matter what did they do.  Did we get money for value from them, the poor quality must have existed from way back when.

      • Anonymous says:

        The accounting system changed in 2005 when the PMFL was introduced.

    • ChrisJohnson says:

      So cutting through all the BS we are not much further ahead. What a surprise. Cayman is a leading financial centre so it preaches but we cannot get our own accounts in order. No wonder Malta is making progess in attracting funds. At least their Government understands debits and credits.

  22. Uncivil Servant says:

    Whilst completing my TRS (Time Recording System) reports the other day, I noted there didn’t appear to be a “Facebook”, “CNS” or even a “smoke break” category, so I just made some crap up. But hey, the cheque still seems to come on time every month, so what the hell.