Audit office defers FOI

| 22/09/2010

(CNS): The Auditor General’s Office remains determined to keep a lid on the number of public bodies that have not conformed with the Public Management and Finance Law this year, and has refused a CNS freedom of information request regarding the submission of annual accounts. Despite the fact that additional public funds were allocated to help financial officers catch up with delinquent government accounts so they could submit the 2009/10 financial year on time, the audit office says it is not prepared to reveal whether that extra expenditure of public money has improved the situation. Although it is an independent office, free to make its own decisions about disclosure and the only place collating information about government financial compliance, the auditor general is giving nothing away.

Following an FOI request by CNS at the beginning of this month asking the AG’s office to list the number of government companies, statutory authorities, government ministries and other public bodies which had complied with the PMFL, the office has sent a letter of deferral until January next year.
 
CNS had asked which government entities had submitted their annual accounts to the office for audit by the 31 August deadline under the PMFL. However, the office said it was not prepared to reveal the information as it was working on a major report regarding the entire issue of government financial accountability for December and did not wish to pre-empt the findings.
 
In a departure from the previous auditor general’s position of answering questions and providing information to the press and the public at large unless the law prevented him from doing so, the new auditor general has said he intends to communicate with the public only when reports are complete and have been delivered to the Legislative Assembly.  
 
Given the allocation of extra public money to assist government financial officers in the goal to catch up and to get this year’s accounts in on time, CNS pressed for this piece of information in the belief that the public had a right to know at the material time (the legal deadline of 31 August) how many government bodies had complied with the law. We therefore submitted an FOI request.
 
In the deferral letter the Auditor General’s Office said the information requested by CNS was “considered a significant matter for our December Auditor General’s Report as we intend to present progress in presenting financial statements as a major component of the Report before talking more widely about the audit opinions and the issues we have found.”
 
The office said that the matter would be presented in the context of all of the issues surrounding the progress made on government accounting. “We believe the release of the number no matter what caveat we attach, is potentially a misrepresentation of the position and does not really ensure effective accountability at this time,” the letter stated.
 
The AG said the information would be released at the latest by 4 January 2011 if the report was not tabled in the Legislative Assembly before that date.
 
CNS has appealed the decision in order to ensure the issue of government financial accountability remains in the forefront of public awareness so that the people can continue to press government to fulfil its obligations regarding how public money is being spent.
 
The Caymanian public is aware of the poor state of government finances because the previous auditor general made the decision to do a special report on the subject. As a result of his revelations the government was forced to tackle the problem, and while progress has been slow the public scrutiny helped to place the problem higher on government’s agenda.
 
At present the people still do not know how government departments have spent public money, despite two budget deficits and a continuing recession, as an annual government financial report has not been produced since 2004.

Read AG’s letter here  

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Category: FOI

Comments (14)

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  1. MER says:

    I thought it was against the law for any department to refuse disclosure of information requested by the FOI office?

  2. Joe Bananas says:

    It should be obvious by now that the main reason the reports on how CIG has spent the public’s money for the past 6 years have been stifled is that they would show that there has been criminal misuse by those in power.  If those reports see the light of day what then will the Premiership and his cronies do besides give the right to govern over to the UK?  They are a ship that will sink but is fighting to stay on top of the water.  You have only to look and see how they are spending the public’s money right now to see the truth.  They know that they are doomed by the past so they are trying to get the most personal use of puplic money they can before it hits the fan. Can’t wait for the UK takeover.  Maybe then businesses on Cayman can work for themselves instead of just the few in power that spend/spent all the money.  Think of a Cayman that works for itself and spends its profits on its own future instead of a few crooks.  The sooner it comes the less the bill will be.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Looks like this administration got exactly the Auditor General they were looking for.

     

    Missing you already Dan…

  4. Stating the obvious says:

    CNS…..tisk tisk tisk! Cannot wait a couple of months for an accurate and fair report. I think you should give the guy a break, let the AG do his job, then make judgement. I also think you should be mindful that appealing purely to ensure, "accountability remains in the forefront of public awareness" is ultimately costing the Cayman purse and what for information you will have in "due coarse".

    CNS: We merely asked for a list of the government entities that have submitted reports, not the details of those reports. To suggest that this list would cost money to produce is ludicrous.

    • Anonymous says:

      To: Stating the obvious

      Releasing information is not what is wasting these  Islands money, It is trying to keep poor governance secret!

      In reality, if the Auditor General (AG) was not under heavy manners, then he would start a publication scheme for his department, as required by the FOI Law, The information requested would automatically be published on the AG’s website as the various government departments and entities submitted their accounts for audit.  

      The AG by making the public wait on his report is just doing the bidding of his controllers to hide the facts – further proof that the AG is no longer and independent entity.  We knew this would occur when they fired Dan Dougay!

      CNS we wish you the best in your appeal for this information that should be automatically released, this is what FOI is really all about, the automatic publishing of governance information.  If we had good governance then we would not even have to request the information.

      Good Governance is the Governor’s / UK Government’s responsibility to implement.  We call on the Governor’s / UK Government to instruct the Civil Service to begin to automatically publish requested information, to get with the program.

      Thank you CNS for continuing to do an excellent job to expose poor governance in the Cayman Islands.

       

       

  5. Hallowe'en Jack says:

    This is a disgraceful refusal.  The gist of the answer is that the truth might look worse than it is really is.  But this is what FOI is for – to let US review the conduct of public bodies and assess that proposition for ourselves.

    This type of refusal should have a sanction of a surcharge for costs against the official who refuses.

  6. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    *Shaking my head* His decision to refuse access… makes me feel sick…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Cut the new guy some slack. If he doesn’t deliver by Jan 4, 2011, then go ahead and roast him.

    Dan’s firing? A clear case of "shoot the messenger". I think that the new guy is painfully aware of Dan’s situation.

     

  8. Anonymous says:

    Keep up the pressure CNS.  You can fill the void left by Dan.  Looks like the new AG must have left his "cahunas" behind.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Typical bureaucrat! Another one who is taking a "Mightier Than Thou" attitude.

    These people get little sympathy from the Caymanian public who are paying their enormous salaries only to have them refuse to provide what is in fact information to which the Caymanian public is justly entitled to.

    But he is sure living up the expectations of those who selected him and those who agreed to his appointment.

  10. Anonymous says:

    CNS I think you should retract free to make their own decisions. We all remember what happens when dirty laundry is hung out to dry, contracts are not renewed.

    Since the UDP was elected as the Government we have alot more questions than answers and most of all abuse of power.

  11. Robin Hood says:

    Correction WAS an independent office.

  12. Hoodatwoz says:

    I can see this from both perspectives. CNS is crusading on behalf of its customers’ wish and right to know while the A-G does not wish to be coerced into becoming another Dan Duguay, grandstanding to the media. I suggest we let him do his work and await his report when it is due. If it seems waffly, prevaricating, inadequate or whatever, then it is open season on him, but let him be for now, while we sharpen our weapons!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Bravo CNS! Keep the pressure on!

     We cannot let the government bodies get away with flouting the law- that goes for those that have failed to comply with the PMF Law and those that try to keen such incompetence secret.