Court is PMFL’s exception

| 03/08/2010

(CNS): Following criticisms made in a government audit that the court was not fully complying with the Public Management and Finance Law, officials have denied falling foul of the legislation as it is exempt from certain provisions. The audit, which was conducted in 2008 by the Internal Audit Unit, suggested that it was difficult to determine if the court had delivered the work (or outputs) for the financial year end June 08 as it was supposed to because of the way it was billing Cabinet. Auditors said the court’s invoices were not directly matched with outputs. However, the court has stated that because of the nature of its work the PMFL provides for the court to report its performance in a way that does not impinge on the independence of the judiciary.

The details of the Internal Audit Unit’s report were revealed as a result of an FOI request made by the Caymanian Compass. In its news report last week it suggested the court had not complied with the PMFL when reporting to government, which the court denies. Delene Cacho, the Courts Administrator, explained that when the PMFL was first proposed the potential for government to control the court’s budget was seen as possibly undermining the independence of the judiciary, which would be unconstitutional.
“The obvious potential that such a proposal had for, at the least, the appearance of interference with the independent operations of the courts and the administration of justice led the chief justice to propose changes to the law, and, consequently, certain changes were made,” Cacho said.
Therefore, when the PMFL was passed it exempted the Judiciary from its operations in these terms, as set out in Section 80(3):
“This Law shall apply to the judicial administration except that the outputs and the details of the ownership performance specified in the annual budget statement of the judicial administration shall be specified so as to ensure that they do not impinge on the constitutional functions or constitutional independence of the judiciary.”
The law therefore allows the judiciary and court staff to administer justice on a case-by-case basis according to the merits of each case, without having to consider whether the output of judicial and administrative services may be regarded as justifying the budget allocated for the courts. “Any other application of the law that could interfere with the due and properadministration of justice would be unconstitutional and wrong,” Cacho noted.
Although it is very difficult to predict the outputs of court staff because their job is to support the unpredictable work of the judges, court staff recognised the notion of an “output” as the basic measure by which the budget allocations are made and the performance of civil servants measured under the law. As a result, Cacho said, the Judicial Administration has over the years implemented systems and endeavoured to comply with the law by providing the information required in as relevant a manner as possible.
“There is absolutely no basis for apprehending that the law is being flouted or that there is any impropriety in the management of the courts’ financial resources,” Cacho stated. adding that the audit had concluded that the agency’s output reporting systems required some improvements and to establish appropriate systems to accurately report performance.
Cacho stated that it was a question of the “manner in which financial data may be accessed or presented,” but the audit did not suggest that financial data didn’t exist or was either inaccurate or misleading.
The Judicial Administration or the courts is headed up by the chief justice and employs around 50 people. The courts operate a Judicial Enforcement Management System to capture data on cases filed by police, attorneys and the general public. “A report can be generated at any time to provide statistical information,” the courts said in its management report to the audit. revealing that it could demonstrate how it was meeting its objectives if required.

Read Internal Audit Report

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Don’t know what all the fuss is about; this is just a case of the Tahoe Brothers looking after themselves even before they had the Tahoes. In spite of the fact that every lawyer in town keeps a record of how much time he spends on a job so he can bill his client, Tahoe Black couldn’t accept that his lawyers should keep such records and account for how much time and money they spend on civil or criminal matters. And when he realised how easy it was to convince Cousin Silverado and I-Wanta-Be-Bustamante, he got the same bag of privileges for his brother Tahoe Tan.

    You see, in the Tahoe Brothers’ minds, elected officials exist to pass laws to require the public to pay taxes. The public exists to pay the taxes. They exist to do what they want with whatever amount of money they say they need; simple! Have you ever heard anyone in Finance Committee question them on why they need all this money (other than on Legal Aid)?

    And in the mean time, the wheels of justice grind screechingly along and remands of over 2 years is not unheard of!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Waste of time to carry out this audit. The whole idea of reporting outputs by the judiciary is a faulty premise.

    In fact, the real audit should be on the value of the PMFL reporting requirements rather than compliance with it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree Wed 7:16. Let’s get back to the days when the civil service including the Judicial Dept could spend money without actually saying what they spent it on. So tiresome and burdensome having to explain away one’s spending.

    • Anonymous says:

      Spoken like a true (delinquent) Chief Financial Officer, 7:16.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The audit report only encourages the Judiciary to follow sound financial reporting and demostrate TRANSPARENCY. 

    The Judiciary should lead by example by following all of the LAWS of this island and should not use as an excuse the "constitutional independence" to be exempted from doing what is expected from them.



  4. Anonymous says:

    As a variation of "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" – who shall guard the guards? – , who in Cayman judges the judges?

    • Legal Beagle says:

      The Court of Appeal, the Privy Council and the European Court of Human Rights. 


  5. anonymous says:

    I guess The Compass has egg on face. Another error from past AG’s office it seems…not surprising.

    • Anonymous says:

      If the Compass was a real newspaper, it would put an investigative journalist on the job of researching and perhaps challenging the statement from the Courts Office. But it isn’t, so it won’t.

      • Anonymous says:

        I really don’t understand this reader’s point abut the Compass not being willing to show the Court’s recent statement to be an incorrect position.

        The Compass carried the original story, which was quite unfavourable to the Courts.  That newspaper did not  in fact carry the Court’s point of view at all — which is standard newspaper practice.

        Based on the way they have handled this story so far, I am sure that if the Compass can find the basis on which to contradict and to counter the Courts’  stated position in this article, they would have no hesitation to do so.

        You should look at the Compass’ record on coverage of Court stories.

    • Anonymous says:

       This isn’t an error of the AG’s office – the report was written by the Internal Audit Office which is entirely separate from the AG.

    • Anonymous says:

      You might want to read the story again. It was the Internal Audit Department that issued the report… not the Auditor General’s Office!!! They are NOT the same thing!!

    • Dirk says:

      Point of clarification: The Internal Audit Unit is not the same as the Auditor General’s Office. The former falls under the Ministry of Finance (previously the Portfolio of Finance and Economics) and internally audits government agencies in reports that are not generally made public. The latter is an independent entity that externally audits government agencies in reports that must be made public after they are tabled in the Legislative Assembly (exactly when after is currently being debated). Dan the Man had nothing to do with this report.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS readers should read the internal audit report prior to making comments.  To me, the report highlighted the areas that the Judiciary was not in compliance, especially to the Finance Law.  The report even mentioned the provision in the law that the Juciary was not in compliance with.  

      We should also read and understand the Finance Law to check for ourselves who is telling right. After reading the Finance Law, is the audit report right? Is judiciary really exempted from the output reporting responsiblity?  Was the exemption clearly stated in the Law?


  6. Anonymous says:

    Ir would be interesting to hear what the Audit people (who generally know very well what the laws say) would have to say in response to this but since all statements like this coming out of the Courts Office are written by the Chief Justice or approved by him it is unlikely that they will bother to take the matter further. Civil servants are intimidated by the majesty of the Judiciary.

    • Anonymous says:

      As posters have noted this audit was, indeed, conducted by the Internal Audit Department, which is stated in this CNS story in paragraph 1.  And that agency is a department that falls under the Portfolio of Finance.  The Auditor General’s agency is a statutory (semi-autonomous) body that answers to the Legislative Assembly and falls under the Governor’s ambit of responsibilityfrom an administrative perspective.

      In response to the poster who wondered what the response of the Internal Audit Unit would be, the law is the law.  It is unlikely that the Internal Audit Unit would allow this statement from the Courts Administrator to stand if it could provide a basis for such contradicition under the law.  The position is that the law provides for an exemption for the Judicial Department, and the Audit Department may have overlooked that exemption, given that generally the Civil Service must comply in all respects.

      I doubt, also, that  Civil servants intimidation "by the majesty of the Judiciary" is preventing them from coming forward with a response.

      The fact is that it is the Judiciary’s job to know the law, as members have to rule on basis of law every single day. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Seems both the RCIPS and the courts are exempt from any sort of external review or examination.

    I’ve always said the police should not be able to police themselves – same goes for the courts. When will this be corrected?