PAC has failed Cayman, says ex-Chamber boss

| 28/01/2015 | 11 Comments

PAC Chair Roy McTaggart (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)(CNS): The Public Accounts Committee has let down the people of Cayman by its failure to call the former deputy premier and her chief officer to account for their questionable spending of public cash, the former president of the Chamber of Commerce has stated. Johann Moxam said the representatives of the people should not be picking and choosing who they hold to account and asked why those responsible for the mismanagement of public cash were not at least being asked to explain what happened.

Although the PAC chair has also failed to answer questions from CNS regarding its recent hearing, it is understood that the committee will not reconvene. This means that neither Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who was minister of district administration, lands, works and agriculture (DALWA), nor her chief officer, Kearney Gomez, will be asked to account for a number of issues relating to the spending in the ministry when they were at the helm, as reported in the auditor general’s controversial report on travel and hospitality.

Moxam, who was particularly outspoken about public spending during his time as the president of the Chamber, said that unless people were held to account the mismanagement would continue.

“The PAC and its members failed to use the opportunity to hold government officials and the former UDP Deputy Premier, Minister for DAWLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly to account,” he said, asking why O’Connor-Connolly, now speaker of the House, who joined the PPM following the election, was unaccountable to the people.

“When there are no questions asked nor consequences for mismanagement and waste of public funds by any government official, there can be no mystery to why nothing changes,” Moxam said. “Unfortunately the charade of effective governance, transparency and accountability continues, with the people and business community left to ultimately pay the costs.”

He said that the elected leaders must move past rhetoric and excuses.

“There must be one standard for accountability applicable to all persons in a leadership role in this country. This includes all elected officials, ministers and the civil service management for the respective ministries. We must not pick and choose who we hold accountable in government. There must be no exceptions,” Moxam told CNS.

“Unfortunately, it seems that those who find favour or who sit on the right side of power are given a pass. It is obvious that there are some senior personnel in the public sector that find it acceptable to look the other way or fail to challenge the potential waste of public funds. All persons involved in that exercise and deliberately choosing to look the other way, make excuses, sign off on the questionable expenditure or choose to not carry out their responsibilities in public sector management as public officials and the PAC as representatives of the people are failing our country,” he added.

The issue has raised concerns among the wider public that the former chief officer for the bulk of the time period covered by the report and the former minister were not called.

During the hearing Nadisha Walters, the chief financial officer at the time, did give evidence and said the travel advances were approved by heads of departments or the chief officer. She said finance staff had no say in approval but merely did the processing and there was no expectations of receipts for the per diem advances. Walters said the minister charged her travel costs to her government credit card, and although the finance office requested receipts, they never materialized.

Facing a credit card bill to pay and pressure from the finance ministry not to incur late charges, Walters said, the minister would verify the spending herself on the credit card bill and they would be paid.

“We didn’t get the detailed support … but we were obligated to pay,” she told the committee earlier this month.

She also explained that she told the chief officer about the lack of supporting documentation and that it was needed, but although the CO said he would liaise with the minister there were no changes, she said.

The report by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick was focused on the mismanagement and lack of controls on the spending and had not named specific personnel or individuals. But the two largest spending ministries headed up by the former premier, McKeeva Bush, and former deputy premier were examined in detail.

Although Bush, who is now deputy chair of PAC, went before the committee as requested, PAC Chair Roy McTaggart did not call O’Connor-Connolly or Gomez to explain the controversial line items in their travel and hospitality budgets. Bush was the only member of PAC who said the former minister and the CO should be called to explain.

Of practical concern was the issue of hotel bills run up by O’Connor-Connolly in her own constituency of Cayman Brac, where she has a home. There has never been any explanation for this and follows the silence from that former minister on the questions raised over the controversial Brac paving scandal, when private roads, driveways and parking lots were paved using public cash.

The ministry also incurred massive write-offs for travel advances that were never supported with receipts or information to say where cash had gone for unspecified senior officials. Extravagant trips to overseas conferences were raised in the report as there seemed to be no business justification for the size of the delegations or reasons for going.

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Anarchy is what you have here in cayman everyone in govt does what they please. No one to call it and if you do call it look out they will get you one way or another. It is sad that that is the way it is. There is no law here.

  2. Disillusioned Paper Caymanian says:

    Has anyone ever heard of the term “oh dearism”? It’s basically the response people give to terrible news that they feel is outside of their control. People have become so desensitized to it that their only reaction when they hear, read or see the news is “oh dear”. Seriously, Google it.
    Anyway, all we’re continuing to do here is accept our fate with nothing more than a tut, a moan and maybe a rolling of the eyes (if we’re lucky).
    Why can we not pull together to peacefully protest?? No matter if you’re born Caymanian, paper, resident or visitor the continued negligence and apathy from our elected officials affects us all and HAS to stop (I’m not talking just PPM here either).
    If you too want to do something, up vote or reply to this comment up and maybe we’ll get some ideas going…

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. Form an alliance group and lets move forward. Firstly, I suggest removing all the long term position holders.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just another in a long line of actions/in actions that show Cayman leadership is all about what they get for themselves over what Cayman islands needs. This is what is happening all over the world where the people are not educated enough to trust intelligence over corruption.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Clear nepotism – shameful! But what is worse is that this Government was elected with the mandate for transparency! They are doing exactly what they criticized in the past Government. In my view if I repeat your wrongs that makes me worse than you! Disgraceful PPM!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Surely the Governor should be able to intervene in such matters, or at the very least, report this to a higher authority outside of the Cayman Islands. It is outrageous that this kind of behavior by politicians is constantly allowed to go on, they are supposed to be representing the people of this island who voted them into these positions of power – their honesty and integrity should be off the highest standard, instead it appears to be that they display an attitude of entitlement and arrogance – two of the worst type of traits in any human being. There is little chance of these people actually helping the ones who put them into power in the first place, they are only out for their interests.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Vote them all out!

  7. Sid says:

    All the members of PAC should be ashamed of themselves that they did not even attempt to question O’Connor-Connolly and Gomez about this outrageous abuse of public funds. Why did you guys even bother turning up?

    • Anonymous says:

      Not true. Read the report. It did say that the Deputy Chair was the only person to call on the former Deputy Premier and CS to account.

  8. New Caymanian says:

    Every member of the Public Accounts committee failed in its duties and to keep key campaign promises. I’m very disappointed in Roy McTaggart, Winston Connolly, Joey Hew as legislators they took the easy way out and let Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and others off the hook.

    • Anonymous says:

      The PAC members have not displayed the integrity that we the voters demand. Explanations are due forthwith.

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