Accounts in for audit

| 09/09/2013

(CNS): Although government has once again announced that all of its agencies have submitted their accounts to the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) by the 31 August deadline, as required by law, it is still a long way from publishing an entire public sector financial report on time. The new finance minister reported that the quality of submissions has improved this year but the auditor’s office has so far remained silent on that issue because although the majority of government agencies have submitted something to the office by the deadline for the last three years, the information has not met the required international standard and the office is still working on previous years accounts due to the poor standard of submissions.

It is now ten years since government completed a full set of accounts, and public spending transparency remains elusive, regardless of the time and effort spent on trying to improve government books, as well as the employment of additional staff and consultants, plus assistance from UK experts.

Despite the claims over the last three financial years from government officials that the state of accounting has improved, the most recent report from Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick reveals that the improvements have been very slow in coming and have not yet achieved the desired result of publishing a clear and transparent report that can be understood by the public and clearly shows how taxpayers' money has been spent.

The Public Management and Finance Law stipulates that government ministries, portfolios and offices, as well as statutory authorities and government-owned companies, submit their 30 June year-end financial statements to the OAG by 31 August each year. However, it is only in the last two or three years that they have come close to doing so. The introduction of the new law and the impact of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 threw public accounting into disarray. This and a lack of leadership on the issue, in addition to a skills gap in government finance departments has meant that government books are still in shambles.

Nevertheless, Finance Minister Marco Archer announced that all government ministries, portfolios and offices – which total 15 agencies – and its 26 statutory authorities and government-owned companies, had submitted their 30 June, 2013 financial statements by the statutory deadline of 31 August to the OAG for review and examination. 

“On behalf of the government, I offer my congratulations to the oversight group – consisting of the deputy governor, the financial secretary, and chief officer of the ministry of finance – that supervised the achievement of this result; as well as to all other chief officers, chief financial officers and supporting staff, for another great accomplishment and for putting greater effort and focus on improving the quality of the financial information,” Archer said.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said he was delighted with the compliance because it solidified government’s top priority of “ensuring good governance, accountability and proper fiscal management”.

The auditor general is required to issue an opinion on the financial statements by 31 October but for every year so far since the PMFL came into effect, his office has had to go back time and again to government entities seeking more information before his staff could even begin to audit the accounts. Following the government statement this week, the OAG said it had no comment to make until it could "progress our work on the information we have received”.

In a recent report Swarbrick said the time had come for government to rethink the situation and recommended a simplification of the law because it was apparent the government would continue to fail to meet its own requirements if it did not. And, of greater importance, without change government could never achieve timely and transparent information for the tax payer, he said.

Although more entities have managed to meet the date as each year passes, with information slowly getting better from the statutory authorities and government-owned companies, core government finance officials are still woefully behind and it is understood that the audit office is still working on the previous year’s accounts for the ministries and portfolios.

The audit office also said recently that the country is still several years away from being in a position to publish its full set of consolidated accounts.

See most recent reports from Swarbrick relating to government finances below.

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Category: Politics

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  1. Binge Thinker says:

    "………because although the majority of government agencies have submitted something to the office by the deadline for the last three years, the information has not met the required international standard and the office is still working on previous years accounts due to the poor standard of submissions."

    This is the problem. The Civil Service has by some measures grown by 140% since 2002 all as a result of the PFML.

    A Dyson vac is also very expensive and really sucks. But why does our Civil Service have to?

    • Anonymous says:

      "….all as a result of the PMFL". You are falling into the familiar trap of blaming ALL the growth on the PFML. Its lazy detractors love to do this to try to deflect from their own laziness and incompetence. You should, instead, check the number (over the last few years) of  new teachers, lawyers, policemen, immigration officers (and more to come), helicopter staff, hazard management staff, commission secretariat staff, FOI staff, information commissioner's office staff, protocol office etc. Then read today's Compass about the huge growth of the Statutory Authority/Government Company staff.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well said 16:08. There is such ignorance about this whole issue and it is being created by those people, mainly in senior positions in Finance, to distract people from their own total uselessness.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why dont they just publish what they have and let the public make the final decision? Scared stiff is why.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It won't improve because they don't want it to improve because of all the waste, incompetence and misappropriations that they are concealing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Transparency is everything…without that there will only be abuse and second guessing. Goverment could start with a clear budget about who is spending what and why, I mean really clear…full of detail, that would be a good start.

  5. Security - Stability - Prosperity says:

    How about automatic budget cuts in the following year for ministries and SAGC's that fail to meet the standards? With this threat looming I bet all of them would present perfect figures on time!

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you never fire anyone for not doing their job how can expect the job to some day get done?  You don't.  And these are the same guys that want to tell private business how they need to start doing business.  If they were only smart enough to see how dumb they are Cayman could start to move forward instead of the steady decline.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Marco actually issued a statement crediting those individuals for the accounts being submitted on time? Seriously? Talk about being out of touch with what's going on within the Government and even his own Ministry. Is there any wonder things never seem to get better? 

    • Anonymous says:

      That's the way we do things here 19:22. Praise the incompetent people (so we don't have to deal with them) then blame some law or other. Bingo! Simple. Aren't we Caymanians smart?

  8. Weapons Grade Bollocks says:

    “….although the majority of government agencies have submitted something to the office by the deadline for the last three years, the information has not met the required international standard and the office is still working on previous years accounts due to the poor standard of submissions.”

    It boggles the mind that the administrative government of a financial services center of global importance cannot produce proper accounts. How much longer is this sad and sorry tale of incompetence going to drag on?

    The civil service should not resemble a Dyson vacuum cleaner in cost and sucking ability!!!

    Wake up Cayman……..

  9. Anonymous says:

    The CFOs within the areas that have not submitted accurate and timely accounts should be terminated immediately. Any continuation of this tardiness should result in the termination of the CEOs that are responsible.

    • I Observe... says:

      I agree Anon 17:38! That would get them moving! 

    • Anonymous says:

      Your asking me to fire my 2nd cousin twice removed that is marrying my sisters best friend …not gonna happen. I guess we all have to suffer to keep my family on the unaudited payroll.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is a disgrace that a international finance center like Cayman once ranked 5th in the world seems incapable of producing credible accounts and complying with its own PMFL laws. 

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don't understand the poor quality of accounts being submitted/accepted year after year.

    When I take my vehicle for inspection it either meets the requirements for road worthiness or it is rejected and I am not allowed to drive it on the road until it is fixed.

    Can you imagine being told that your car is in a little better shape than it was a year ago, but you are allowed to drive the vehicle for another year with the hopes that maybe you will fix the problems by the time an inspection is due the following year?

    It's time for Franz to take each set of accounts that the Auditor General finds unacceptable back to the person who produced them and demand that they be brought up to standard or be fired.

    This is what happens in the private sector. Why does that seem so easy to say, but impossible for anyone in government to do?

  12. Chancellor of the Exchequer says:

    Sadly, the accounts will be no different than what was said last year by the Auditor General. No one should be overjoyed with departments handing in work or accounts that cannot be verifed or have a qualified opinion.

    The only way to get a true picture and make sense from years of nonsense and financial mismangement from successive governments dating back to 2000 is for the Cayman Islands  Government led by Premier Alden McLaughlin and the Peoples Progressive Movement who hold a majority of 13 Government members vs 5 Opposition members to produce a set of Audited Consolidated Financial Statements produced by Independent Auditors e.g. PWC, E&Y, KPMG, Deloitte, BDO, Grant Thronton, McGladery & Pullen (all have offices in the Cayman Islands) 

    Finance Minister Archer this is the best chance to prove that you are different from your predecessors and to start the process of transparency and implementation of sound fiscal management policies and practices.

    If the PPM cannot or do not insure that a full set of audited accounts for the CIG is produced by the end of the financial year it simply means that they are happy to continue the cycle of bad management and are no different from UDP.

    Remember your campaign promises and good luck.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This should be good.