Culture changing claims CIG bean counter

| 26/03/2015 | 9 Comments
Cayman News Service

Ronnie Dunn, Acting Accountant General

(CNS): The acting accountant general has said a cultural switch is going on amongst civil service accountants that is heralding improvements in public finances. Admitting that there were no real consequences for the failure over the last decade to get the government’s books in order, Ronnie Dunn said that things were getting better as “everybody wants to do a good job” and they were putting in their best efforts to turn things around. He also said that in order to improve accountability it was time to reintroduce more frequent reporting to the LA about public finances.

Although there is still some way to go before government will be truly accountable for the taxpayers’ money it is spending, its chief financial officers and senior accounting staff told the Public Accounts Committee that despite ongoing challenges, real change was happening in the finance departments of government agencies.

As a result of the improvements and the cleared backlog, Dunn said core government accountants were in a better position to report more frequently to the parliament. While it may not need to be quarterly, he said it should be more often than just once a year, even if the figures were unaudited. He said the government’s IRIS system still presented problems but this was not an impediment to producing quality and timely accounts.

However, the chief officer in the home affairs ministry, Vinton Chinsee, pointed out that the elected officials and the public needed much more than a “bunch of numbers” but proper management reports that explain what is going on and “drives home the accountability”.

Asked by the PAC chair why the government’s accountants were not able to produce them, Chinsee said he believed it was because they did not “understand what it really was” as it was not “an accounting thing” and the financial officers were not always the best people to produce management reports. He called for an education process about what was needed to be truly accountable.

Dunn said the improvements in the management accounts systems, communications and support were helping with compliance. But when asked if full compliance with the Public Management and Finance Law was achievable, the committee did not receive a definitive answer. However, he said the latest submissions to the auditor general for the end of the 2013/14 year had been delivered on time, with just one agency submitting two days late.

Many of the problems holding up the full consolidated accounts, from asset evaluations to estimated future health care costs and opening balances, were being addressed but Dunn warned other problems created by the separate accounting systems in some government departments collecting significant revenue, such as immigration, customs and vehicle licensing, was still an issue.  It would be 2017 before some of the deficiencies in those systems were addressed, he told PAC.

Addressing the competency of the governments accountants, the PAC heard that there is no across-the-board policy on helping financial experts maintain qualification standards and professional development, with many government workers paying from their own pockets to keep up their professional standards. The civil service was described as a “a mixed bag” when it came to the standards expected for people in the same financial posts and supporting them in training and education.

The auditor general, Alastair Swarbrick, raised his concern about the ad hoc approach to professional development in government, as he pointed to the need to develop the skills and expertise needed for the younger accountants in government to climb up the ladder. It said it was unacceptable for public sector workers to be paying to maintain their status from their own pockets when the job they were in required specific designations.

See relevant reports by the Office of the Auditor General:

Financial and Performance Reporting: Statutory Authorities and Government Companies for the year ending 30 June 2012

Financial and Performance Reporting: Ministries, Portfolios and Offices for the years ending 30 June 2011 and 2012

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (9)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As a person that sits next to an HR Manager in the civil service I can tell you recruiting people has been a real issue. They seems to apply to the CIG as a backup plan and when they get a job in the private sector they turn down CIG like a bad flu,,,,who wants to work at a place that gives you a reputation of being lazy and doesn’t give raises. In a few years, all you people crying fire are going to be crying for someone to provide government services.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks CNS

  3. Anonymous says:

    Addressing the competency of the governments accountants, the PAC heard that there is no across-the-board policy on helping financial experts maintain qualification standards and professional development, with many government workers paying from their own pockets to keep up their professional standards.

    That’s the key, focus on the solutions and what can be done to aid the progress. Training is certainly a key component

  4. Anonymous says:

    And exactly why is this report so late? Why not report what happened last year? If the AG is going to criticize then he should start with his office. A lot of these issues have been addressed and resolved for some time.

  5. Horseface says:

    Yeah, let’s kick the can down the road, a true Caymanian politician, no fear of repercussions, I can’t get fired, because nobody gets fired mentality. This whole government and future ones are there for the paycheck ….PERIOD. Not one of them will make a difficult decision,why? . Because they want to be elected again for 4 more years to do nothing but collect a paycheck. The mentality of their solution on the dump comes to mind, NIMBY.This may have got some elected, but what have you done for the country since? The amazing ineptness of all these governments for the the last 15 years astounds me. Think about it, a population of a small town ( 50,000 people) anywhere in the world does not require 18 politicians to govern it. At as average of $11,000.00 per month each. No balanced books for 15 years, 1 billion unaccounted for and another billion in future debts. You people are being screwed by the very same Caymanian you think is being exploited by the e-pat. Clean your own house before you look at someones else.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you meant to call yourself donkey face, not horseface, don’t worry, look at what Archer is doing, instead of jaunts around the world, he is staying home and getting his Ministry to tackle the many issues at home one at a time, the reporting is one such issue and I am sure he will ensure his staff continue to address it before the next election

  6. Anonymous says:

    What a disgrace. Nobody needs an accounting designation to read a simple P&L statement, create a basic inventory report or balance sheet on Excel, or write a basic management report. There should be no drawn-out paid training leave for this most fundamental of management responsibilities. High schoolers can prepare these. Definitely spare us the “all will be acceptible by 2017” talk. You don’t have another 2 years. If the carrots haven’t been working, try the stick for once and start firing/retiring these career simpleton department heads. Fair warning was sounded a decade ago!

    • Anonymous says:

      what a silly comment, clearly shows a lack of understanding

    • Anonymous says:

      In case you’ve been in a cave for the past century, welcome to the 21st Century in CIG where no one gets fired, EVER!!!!.

      You don’t go to war with the weapons you’d like, you go with the weapons you have, if you listen to the proceedings, it was clear that managers don’t have a stick and so they are left hoping the carrot will be enough to entice. Give them a stick like the ability to fire non-performers and then you can hold them accountable.

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