Most accounts late again

| 29/10/2010

(CNS): Following a freedom of information request submitted by CNS in September, the Auditor General’s Office has now revealed that less than half of the government entities obligated to summit their annual accounts to the office by 31 August managed to do so. Despite extra cash from the public purse on accountants to help with the backlog, freeing financial officers to focus on making the reporting deadlines for this year’s accounts, 21 of the 37 entities failed to make the legal deadline. Although CNS had requested a full breakdown of which government entities had made the 31 August date, which was refused, after mediation the AG agreed to reveal that six of the 12 ministries and portfolios had made the deadline and 10 of the 25 statutory authorities.

The auditor general said, however, that he would make no comment about the quality of the financial statements that had been submitted for the financial year that ended 30 June 2010, as that would be provided in the Auditor General’s Annual Report planned for release in late December.

He pointed out that the Public Management and Finance Law requires every government ministry, portfolio and statutory authority or government company to submit their annual financial statements to the Office of the Auditor General by 31 August.

“The submission of financial statements for audit on a timely basis is a key element of ensuring good accountability for government finances. For me to do my job properly, I expect all entities to submit their draft financial statements to my Office by the due date,” Swarbrick said in a statement with the release. “I cannot make any comments about the quality of the submissions made and continue to work on the backlog of financial statements before starting the audits of the 2009/10 submissions.”

He also pointed out that the list stating which entities made the deadline and which did not referred only to this financial year’s accounts and not the continuing backlog which his office is still dealing with.

“These numbers take no account of how far each entity has progressed with their backlog of submitting financial statements to the Legislative Assembly,” Swarbrick added.

The AG’s office also noted that the accounts for the audit office itself, which are given to private sector accounts Pricewaterhousecoopers for independent audit, were done so on time.

Ezzard Miller, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee had said recently that he was pleasantly surprised that most entities had submitted their accounts within a week or so of the deadline. Following a closed door meeting of the committee in early September, Miller said that financial officers throughout the public sector were finally beginning to make headway with government’s long overdue accounts.

He said that his 30 September deadline for the backlog to be addressed was missed but things were improving. “It appears that things are going very well and I was pleasantly surprised,” Miller said. “We didn’t make the 30 September deadline to have the backlog completed but, to be honest; it was far more of a target than a deadline. I never had any great expectations that it would be achieved but it was something to work towards.”

The government has been wrestling with a backlog of financial reports for over five years. The last time an annual audited report of government accounts was completed was for the financial year 2003/04. Since then, government entities have failed to meet the requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law and have not been submitting accounts to the AG’s office. The delinquency problem was brought to public attention by the former auditor general, Dan Duguay, in a special report entitled "The State of financial accountability reporting", dated April 2008.

The issue became a bone of contention for senior public servants, with everything from Hurricane Ivan to the PMF law itself being blamed for the problem. It also became a hot issue during the election, with candidates promising to get the accounts sorted out if they were elected.

The North Side independent MLA, who was voted chair of PAC in the wake of the election in May 2009, said that from the start he hoped that he would be able to get the public accounts back in order and have at least two full annual government reports before the end of his term as chair of the committee.

“All being well, we are set to have the 2010/11 accounts done in accordance with the Public Management and Finance Law,” he said. “The PAC and theAG’s office has spent time working on a clear format for accounts submissions and how financials are presented to the AG. As everyone now knows what is expected, we are on a more sound footing for future account keeping.”

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Comments (18)

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  1. concerned Rasta says:

    Hearing what the OAG always says almost makes me laugh. Having had some experience with that office I can tell the PUBLIC that they lack the experience to handle financial audits. They have roughly 15 persons, of which 12 can work on audits, to complete 90 annual financial audits and God only knows how many compliance audits per year. Someone please ask the OAG where they are with the accounts for entities who are up-todate with their accounts.

    CNS you need to ask the right questions in order to receive and publish the truth. What I’ve noticed about your publication is that you only seek to embarrass the CI Gvernment but your friends at the helm of the OAG is untouched. Get the FACTS before you publish damaging and sensational information.

    May I suggest you ask the following questions:

    1. How many of the 2010 accounts received by the OAG has he started, nearly completed or completed;

    2. How much time does his office take to certify a set of financial statements;

    3. How many qualified staff, in the area of financial reporting, does his office have;

    4. How many different audits does his teams work on at one time, (this will give you some indication of an answer to # 2 above);

    5. If all departments were up-todate with their 2010 accounts how long would his office take to render a certificate?

    When CNS have some answers to these questions on the OAG then the public will have the proper information and see where the country is ona whole with its finances.

    Unless you start exposing the OAG there will always be complaints coming out of that office about incomplete accounts.

    I will be back with some stunning information on the qualifications of the employees for the OAG so the PUBLIC can get a glimpse of the inadaquacy of that office.

    Last but not least, the PAC must take a more active roll in following up on where the OAG is with accounts that has been started for years by that office and a certificate isn’t issued thus far. The PAC should change the name of that office to the Office of Government Compliance. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Interesting comments. I’ve always thought OAG spent a lot of time on special investigations partly because the financial audits were not up to date.

      In fact, I daresay the OAG focused energies reporting on matters that were urgent only because of political rancor.

      Had he taken a pro-active role to planning its audits rather than a reactive role, much more could have been achieved. The OAG could then place itself as an organization of preventative control rather than detective control.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Let me save everyone a little time. These accounts will NEVER be presented on time. We have a culture of entitlement and lack of accountability. These traits are contrary to productivity, professionalism, and responsibility.  It just CANNOT happen.

    • Patricia X says:

      A culture of entitlement and poor productivity?  In Cayman?  Never . . .

  3. Anonymous says:

    From what I know there was a Task  Force put together and KPMG was hired at a cost close to $2 million to get these accounts done. KPMG worked out of Micro center… where are the accounts? Someone in the Ministry of Finance should be made to answer since they oversaw everything especially the SCFO and the CO.

  4. Busy Bee says:

    Idle hands make mischief, if the AG was busy auditing all those internal accounts he wouldn’t have time to stir up trouble elsewhere. All the more reason to finish the accounts. Maybe the powers that be will start pushing harder, can’t afford to have some of the other activities looked at too closely.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I call for the PAC to be fired!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well thank God for FOI, another Ezzard lie exposed. The great big mouth who was going to fix everything is nothing more than a big barrel of hot air.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Governnor should step in but guess what. He has no bottle.

  8. Shock and Awe says:

    The check’s in the marl.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You mean under the watchful eye of Ezzard the accounts are still late?

    Time is such a relative thing, forget the time, the day, the month, instead lets use year…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Government should name and shame those Deaprtments who have failed to provide accounts. Government is accountable to the public as are each Department. Name and shame I say.

  11. Hallowe'en Jack says:

    Starting firing some senior people.  Maybe then someone in our awful civil service will take some responsibility.

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘fire someone in the civil service’…hahaha thats a good one…

  12. Uncivil Servant says:

    Oh yeah. Sorry ’bout that. The dog ate my accounts. No lie.

  13. Shaggy says:

    Wasn’t me.

  14. Anonymous says:

    oh no! i thought accounts would only be late under PPM?