ACC to look at travel audit

| 11/06/2014

(CNS): Following the damning revelations in the Office of the Auditor General’s latest review of government finances, a spokesperson for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has said that members will be taking a look at the findings. In his latest report, which was made public Monday, Alastair Swarbrick, the government’s auditor, found a catalogue of mismanagement regarding government spending by both politicians and civil servants on travel and hospitality. In a tab totalling what could be as much as $10 million over three years during the UDP administration, Swarbrick found issues that go well beyond accounting incompetence and look more like abuse.

He pointed to incidences where officials claimed expenses twice, once from travel advances and then again on credit card charges, where no receipts were submitted to justify travel expense claims, which were nevertheless paid by financial officers, and cases where ministers and senior civil servants signed off on their own expense claims.

There were also costly unsubstantiated charges for hotel rooms in Cayman Brac for the executive aide of the deputy premier at the time, and pricey parties that appeared to have no connection to government business.

The two ministries on which the audit focused in the report of the three year period between 2009 and 2012 were the ministries of finance and tourism, headed by the former premier McKeeva Bush, and district administration and works, headed by his former deputy, UDPminister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who after joining the PPM last year now sits in the speaker’s chair.

Swarbrick had indicated at a press briefing on Monday that the ACC, of which he is a member, was aware of his report but that he had not reported any of his findings to the police. CNS contacted the ACC Tuesday and a spokesperson confirmed that the committee “was aware of the ongoing work of the auditor general in relation to this matter and will be considering the findings contained in the report at its next meeting.”

According to Swarbrick’s report, there does appear to be a plenty for the ACC to consider.
In one example given by Swarbrick, $32,000 of public money, a year’s salary for many people, was given to just one senior civil servant from the ministry of district administration, but was written off as that top level government boss never justified the expenses.

“This practice results in the risk that expenditures could have been incurred for non-business purposes,” Swarbrick stated.

One area of obvious concern in the report is what appears to be the abuse of government credit cards. Swarbrick found at least $458,000 in travel and hospitality expenditures that wasn’t supported by receipts or any other formal documentation spent on credit cards used by ministers and senior officials.

“It was unclear whether the expenditures had any business purpose. We also confirmed that one former minister effectively self-approved the payment of transactions incurred on their credit card which amounted to approximately $71,000 ,” the auditor stated in his report. “The general practice of submitting travel claims with no receipts constituted a significant control weakness and represented a significant risk for abuse by senior government officials and ministers.”

Another flagrant abuse of government credit cards was the practice of government credit card holders charging expenditures to their cards that were already covered by their per diem allowance.

“Due to poor record keeping and lack of financial records, we were unable to determine the true extent of this type of occurrence,” he wrote. “We believe these control weakness and disregard for ensuring the probity of financial transactions is a fundamental failure of the respective COs and CFOs to discharge their duties in accordance with the PMFL and Regulations,” Swarbrick added.

Swarbrick said he found a significant number of transactions that not only did not represent good value for money but looked like misuse.

Looking at expenditure on ground transportation, the audit office found expenditures incurred through an overseas branch of the Department of Tourism of almost $400,000 paid between January 2009 and September 2012 to two ground transportation companies for the use of limousines, vans and SUVs. “We noted that spending increased each year of the review period; from $147,000 in 2010 to $162,000 in 2012.”

Despite this increasing expense, Swarbrick found no control over these procurements, no contracts were in place, no business purpose was documented and there was no evidence of the intended purpose and in some cases the services were being used while people were on personal leave.

The audit office was also concerned about the widely varying rates of per diems for meals and other daily expenses incurred by ministers and senior officials travelling on business. In particular Swarbrick highlights that, regardless of where she travelled, the deputy premier at the time and minister for district administration was given a daily rate of $250.

“Although there are no rules in relation to ministers’ per-diems in the regulations, the amount of $250 per day regardless of location cannot be deemed reasonable because it exceeds the $200 per day specified in the Personnel Regulations (2011 Revision),” Swarbrick stated.

In items that Swarbrick lists as being of particular concern was almost $40,000 which was spent on accommodation at a hotel in Cayman Brac for O’Connor-Connolly’s executive aide; $10,000 wasted on holding accommodation for a TV show for the minister of finance and tourism that never happened, and over $5,000 spent on rentals for prayer meetings in West Bay by the same ministry, headed up by former premier McKeeva Bush. The auditor also listed more than $3,300 on a birthday party for Bush and one closed door lunch at a private roomin the Ritz costing $1,500.

In the conclusion of the report, Swarbrick states that he was not able to determine how bad things really are because of the poor record keeping by everyone involved.

“While we have identified a number of examples in this report, we were unable to quantify how much the government mishandled or wasted during the period reviewed, or how much abuse occurred,” he said.

See report below.

See related story here

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Comments (57)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This should go straight to the financial crimes unit for criminal investigation. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    The CI government has done more to hurt these Islands than any other group.

    They make the cost of living almost impossible to deal with in order to pay for their gross inefficiency and vote buying(not firing half of the ineffective CS)

    That combined with the brain child idea of the 'roll-over' what group of morons thought that was going to be good for Cayman?

    Anyone notice how dumpy Cayman is looking these days? From propertries that were once considered nice to infastructure that was once cream of the crop….Cayman is in deep trouble and I think many know it and are moving out.

    And then they steal 10 million bucks from you and me….

    Caymanians and those who knew someone on the PR board you need to band together and fix the country yourselves dont rely on that group of bone heads in GT. Fix this immigration nightmare and get more people in here who want to buy property and make a life here(tired of tenant yards everywhere)….get rid of the mess that is Civil Service and streamline it…..get rid of the authorities and return Cayman to what it was pre IVAN…..

     

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Pre Ivan or Pre Cabinet Status grants? We have recovered from Ivan. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman has never recovered from Ivan….take a look at Prospect and Bodden Town…dump have a look at the size of the dump pre ivan and post ivan…recovery is relative

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is a very clear conflict of interest for a senior civil servant to sign off on their own charges to government. Section 5(2)(g) of the Public Service Management Law makes acting in conflict of interest unlawful and provides that civil servants may be dismissed. It ought to be time for heads to roll but then again the law is not enforced in the case of senior civil servants.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Certainly the PPM government is going to ask Miss Julie to resign as Speaker and ask big Mac to resign from the PAC. Remember their campaign promisses to restore integerity to Government.

  5. The Janitor says:

    I just read the actions taken of the former ICTA MD and I am of the opinion nothing will be done here as there were so many failures to follow proper procedures from the politicians who abused their power to the very accountant or chief officer who signed off the payments. 

    Just imagine if this was investigated and charges filed? That would mean the whole government would have to be shut down!

  6. Anonymous says:

    In this case I firmly believe that anyone that has not partaken in the giant suck-fest at the trough should feel free to cast the first stone. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    These people should be getting cat calls when they drive by. 

    Hell they should have been met at the airport on their return trips and reminded that It's Not Okay.

  8. Anonymous says:

    WHY on earth are these God fearing, pure hearted, clean hands, forever honerable Christian folks not behind bars???

  9. Anonymous says:

    WTH!!!? Taking a look now??????!!!!!???? Someone needs to investigate the anti corruption committee. Jayzuz!!!i

  10. Anonymous says:

    Time for the PPM to get rid of JUJU!!! Oh sorry you gave her a job for $175k pe year!!! and she is collecting pension!!!!!! Fire the WOMAN and make he pay back for he driver (if you know what i mean) sorry liason officer!!!!

    • Michel says:

      Better yet, suspend her without pay effective immediately until she gets her day in court ! What a role model for our children * I find it totally offending And is Madame Chairman @ $175,000 and all that for a Majority in the house. So many of our senior citizens that help built our BEloved Cayman Islands are suffering just to get food on their tables. That is a total shame and lack of care and respect. Oh and I know more to come and one other in Cabinet we have been but you see that failure of Whistle Blowing legilslationis was not important. Many Ghosts in many closets and that is my personal opinion When will it stop ? Move on it now please and allow us to gain confidence once more. MIchel Lemay

  11. pmilburn says:

    I hate to bring this up but what does the UK have to do with the reckless spending of OUR money on frequent trips abroad?We are to blame for allowing this to continue election after election and no one has the balls to stop the CARNIVAL

  12. Anonymous says:

    If this was a young Caymanian there would be some severe consequences.

    I am absolutely shocked that Ms. O’Connor-Connolly has been allowed to spend money in this way. She should be disgusted in herself.  Although she is not the only one we should hold accountable. Someone booked the costs, someone paid for the costs, someone took a trip that incurred costs and someone paid the final bill for the costs. So there is more than one person involved here and this should be a red flag to the type of people we have hired in our government.

     

    As a Caymanian, I don't know who to trust anymore. But I would only hope they have some reasons because if not… you can believe me that there will be a fire storm coming their way.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The bigger the government gets and the more money it wastes, the more it raises fees and duties. 

    We all know who ends up paying.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Dah gah hold deh clah-woh!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Please ACC, please please please do something about this and do it quickly.  The people need you!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I happened this week to be readingthe Commission of Enquiry report into the Turks & Caicos situation, which contains the following passage:

    “Among the contributors to this moral, governmental and financial decline have been:

    1) the potential and encouragement in the system of governance for abuse of public  office, concealment of conflicts of interest at all levels of public life, and consequent venality;

    2) the power of politics in the mix of public decision‐making and commercial activity, and willingness of overseas developers and other investors to exploit that power for their own purposes;

    3) vulnerability of the majority of the Territory’s long‐term  residents, owing to the precariousness of their permission to live and work here, and to whom Belongership and, with it, the right to vote are denied; and

    4) lack of effective  constitutional checks and balances in the system of governance to protect the public purse, the inefficient from scrutiny, the dishonest from discovery and the vulnerable from  abuse.”

    Every single one of these points could equally describe Cayman. It is all so very, very familiar (and very, very depressing).

     

    • Anonymous says:

      12.30-should be a "copy, paste, send to prosecutor, convict for many years for fraud, misue of office, theft, debauchery and being extremely loud and obnoxious".

  17. pmilburn says:

    One can only hope that the ACC will deal with all of this and not sweep things under the carpet as has been known to be done here on a regular basis by other so called boards or committees?.Again I ask the Caymanian people why do we just sit back and accept this kind of behaviour from our elected members??????????

  18. Bell Lucia says:

    They might truly honestly don't understand that they are not entitled to the lavish and extravagant travel.  Otherwise, how do you explain the apparent disregard for any appearance of decorum?

    On the other hand, I would somewhat understand if a lower rank employee, in the absence of proper education, travel policy and ethical standards would have a sense of entitlement.  But people in a position of control and governance must know what is wrong and what is right. It comes with the position.

    Now, when a controller or a CFO, who is a certified and licensed accountant, signs off unauthorized or self-authorized expenses, he or she violates professional standards. 

    If his or her actions are reported to the professional   board (if a person licensed in Florida for example, then Florida board of accountancy is his licensing Board), the Board reviews the complaint and may conduct an investigation. If violation is confirmed, the nature and severity of the violation and public harm are taken into consideration. Then, disciplinary actions can be imposed, such as: probation, suspension, revocation, limitation of practice, and fines/costs.

    Here is an example of some acts that constitute grounds for which the disciplinary actions may be taken and penalties imposed and a license to practice public accounting revoked:

    – Committing an act of fraud or deceit, or of negligence, incompetency, or misconduct, in the practice of public accounting.

    -Being convicted or found guilty of a crime in any jurisdiction which directly relates to the practice of public accounting.

    – Failing to maintain a good moral character.

    – Failing to perform any statutory or legal obligation.

    – Making deceptive, untrue, or fraudulent representations in or related to the practice of a profession or employing a trick or scheme in or related to the practice of a profession.

    One is allowed to make an anonymous complaint, in Florida for example, but be sure to supply supporting document.

    The public relies on the integrity, morality and honesty of licensees and certificate holders in providing professional accounting services or professional accounting work.

    Government employment requires hiring responsible people for judicious roles such as managing finances, overseeing processes, inspecting compliance, and protecting people and assets.

    Hiring a CPA or a C.A. license holder usually gives a reasonable assurance of integrity, morality and honesty.  They are held accountable in any jurisdiction, including the Cayman Islands.

    The wheel of justice grinds slowly in the Cayman Islands. The Public should know that stripping off professional credentials is a legitimate option.

    • Bell Lucia says:

      One can also look into Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants(CISPA)

      PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS LAW (Cayman Islands)

      PART IV – Discipline

      18. Section 19 shall apply where the Council is of the opinion that, or a

      complaint is made to the Council alleging that, a person registered under this Law

      -Professional misconduct

      (a) is guilty of misconduct, dishonesty, or incompetence in the

      performance of his professional duties;

      (b) has breached the standards of professional conduct of an

      approved institute of which he is a member

       

    • Anonymous says:

      Most of the "signing off" appears to have been done by Chief Officers who don't necessarily have any professional qualifications. Chief Officers with qualifications are not always the kind of people that elected politicians can "wuk wid", so they get put out to pasture and the politician gets to say "It was the chief Officer who was responsible for signing off on my expenses".

    • Anonymous says:

      It's not wrong for them to steal our money until we make it wrong!

  19. Anonymous says:

    And so…"take a look" – Press charges and convict of corruption? XXXX Until the corrupt actually pay for their crimes, spend a few years in the slammer and are made to pay back what they have "stolen" there will be no changes.

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is a joke. They are just looking now? When are they even going to look at the status grants to people who had litle onnection to Cayman? Corruption and abuse stares us all in the face and we continually ignore it.   

  21. Anonymous says:

    Sick of hearing "we will take a look", or " a committee has be set up to investigate". Its a glaring mis-use of funds and misrepresenting the status of the country as "times are tough" if you can hold extravagent parties like this. We need to start seeing suing, firing, and demotion. If we dont, then the whole system is corrupt and we need to bring in the British. 

  22. Catcha Fire says:

    Yes and all this happen under the noses of our great and all seeing benevolent UK masters dont know who is worst those that do it or those who make or let it happen. What is down right hypocritical and disrespectful is them bring it up and pretending they did not know nothing about it when it was happen???? Making fool of Cayman and its people the usual  British pastime now turn hobby?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, its their fault. They shouldn't have allowed us to steal. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Who has their hands in the cookie jar more than the English.  Poof, they just get away with it every time..

        • Anonymous says:

          Your argument does nothing to keep your leaders' hands out of your pocket. Keep it up sad sack. You are a great, first class, a-one citizen and your overlords lub you. In fact they couldn't exist with out you. Now aren't you proud. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Know what happens in Cayman when people try to pinch a bit. It happens in banks and major offices here,  there is always someone who knows and is watching.  So that persons then takes the opportunity to grab a handful of cash and whammy who gets the blame, the little man who was pinching.   Dammit when you are going to steal do it right.  Take a dump truck, rob the money train and split.

    • Anonymous says:

      09.59-I bet you are one of those always bitching about UK interference in Cayman affairs, right? Mummy will only let Cayman be bad up to a point, and then it will cut you off atthe knees, before UK becomes responsible for your mess. Basically you are responsible for your own affairs, so stop blaming UK and start blaming your own inbred theiving ways, and better still do something about it.

      Failing that, give up and admit that the thieving will never stop here due to lack of backbone and self interests, and just ask the UK to take over.

    • Anonymous says:

      Huh? I'm gonna give you one more guess at who's making a fool of you. 

  23. Anonymous says:

    "potential for abuse" = rampant abuse at every opportunity.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Oh please – yes they will take a look at it but THAT IS ALL!!!

     

    Keke did what he wanted cause he damn well know this so called govt we have here won't do anything about his wrong doings.

     

    The only country in the world where politicians can squander govt money and not be held accountable! We should be ashames of ourselves.  As soon as these reports come out Ke ke is first man up at the plate screaming I am innocent!! AND HE SURE IS!! cause he is a free man.

     

    These kinds of reports call for him to be kicked from office. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Lifetime ban and stripped of self-applied "Honorable" title.

      • Anonymous says:

        They should be forced to keep the "Honourable" title; that way we all know exactly who and what they are. 

  25. FCO must prosecute says:

    Your Excellency, Madam Governor,

    I'm afraid with these findings and the outcry of the public, the crown has not choice but to seek prosecution.  HEADS MUST ROLL.

    Why would we be any different from a UK political scandal of the same exact form?

    This is clear as day and requires immediate suspension and legal action.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_parliamentary_expenses_scandal

    Christmas parties, booze, and boyfriends, take your pick: They are all the SAME as the 2005 UK Scandal…

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately the UK won't do anything because they love their booze, travel and luxury cars to drive around in ..

      The unfortunate thing is we will never ever really know how much we spend on them for a role that is purely symbolic..Waste of funds, I say!

  26. FCO must prosecute says:

    Big Mac on Rooster Radio today today that it is perfectly fine to purchase personal items on a government credit card as long as when the bill comes due your staff tells you what to pay.

    Huh?  Every single company i have ever worked for would have fired me on the spot for "un-authorized" use of company funds!

    For Big Mac to say the privatesector does this all the time and is common practice is ridiculous!  Just the opposite Mr. Bush: personal expenses are NEVER put on company credit cards and a person of mid-mangement level and above is expected to have their own personal creidt card and to keep business and personal separate. If a personal expense is required, permission is sought BEFORE.

    I can just see (laughing but serious) if I put a casino charge, a bar bill, or new piece of luggage on my company card.  Oh my!!

    • Anonymous says:

      FCO must procute, that is what you are saying,  We do not know that what you are saying is true.  Yes it happens here in Cayman and not by Caymanians.  They only take a ten when you people take ten million.

      Big Mac is not going anwhere, so you might as well love hm.

    • And Another Ting says:

      Ona sure de same ting don't happen in the private  sector aAskgoshbegosh!

  27. Anonymous says:

    I'm sure that if everyone who is guilty wasput in jail we'd have to build another prison to hold them all. This matter needs to be fully investigated and those found to have abused the public purse should be made, at a minimum, to repay every cent, plus interest!

    • Anonymous says:

      Just turn the govt building into a prison. There's enough space then 

  28. Anonymous says:

    We all know that the egos of the Cayman politicians is bigger than Mount Trashmore and they love to spend other people's money to play the big shot and when there is a public works project it must be gold plated for sure spend more as tribute to their egos.

  29. Coconutz says:

    Not saying this with any glee, because I don't like what is happening to the Cayman Islands, but it seems more and more like Paradise is becoming a Stinking Cesspool – much like the pond on the Brac.  Except this one is in far greater need of drainage!

    • Anonymous says:

      i heard the former Premier this morning trying to justify what he did and his minnions calling in to support him. what was most disappointing was the newly appointed Rooster radio host agreeing with him. Jonathan you surely know better.  Why are you allowing McKeeva to chart your course? Surely you do not want that as your legacy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why would that surprise you? He ran with him in the last two elections? He really shouldn't  be a talk show host.

      • And Another Ting says:

        Hey Ayoff Jonathan. This young man is fair and unbiased. You must have listened to the trash show you wanted to hear.