Auditor has power to judge legal compliance

| 17/08/2015 | 29 Comments
Cayman News Service

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick

(CNS): The auditor general has confirmed that not only does he have the power to comment on compliance with the law when it comes to government’s management of public funds and assets, it is one of his main duties. Following loud condemnation by McKeeva Bush of Alastair Swarbrick’s report on government’s land management after the audit found both the Shetty hospital and the Dart/NRA deals were unlawful, Swarbrick said it was one of his “principal responsibilities as a public sector auditor”.

Explaining his role at a press briefing on Friday, Swarbrick said he was obligated, in line with local laws as well as international standards, to assess whether activities, financial transactions and information were in compliance with the authorities that govern the audited entity.

In the opposition leader’s various attacks on the auditor general this week, he condemned his findings and said Swarbrick did not have the authority to suggest that the deals Bush made when he was premier between 2009 and 2012 were not in accordance with the Public Management and Finance Law.

Mac defends deals, calls for AG’s opinion

Bush asked the attorney general to weigh in on the issue but so far Samuel Bulgin, government’s legal counsel, has said nothing about any of Swarbrick’s reports or his constant indication that the PMFL has been breached many times when it comes to the management of public funds by government.

Spelling out his responsibilities as auditor general, Swarbrick said that while recent statements in the LA had tried to “cast doubt” on the work of his office, he could reassure the public that all of the work they do was well within the statutory mandate.

“If the public believed the comments that were made in the Legislative Assembly, most performance audits around the world would not be undertaken and the impact of public sector auditing would be significantly weakened,” he stated, as he emphasized the need to dispel any misunderstandings stemming from what the opposition leader had said from the floor of the House.

He assured the public that the work of his office was being carried out in a professional manner without the influence of any interference.

Swarbrick further explained that the management response for his work must come from the civil service management and not, as claimed by the opposition leader, from the politicians.

In the wake of the Nation Building Fund audit report, Bush accused Swarbrick of not speaking to any of the people involved with the distribution of the money to applicants. But Swarbrick said he had interviewed all of the civil servants directly involved who were still employed by government, including the chief financial officer. He said that the only civil servant not questioned was the chief of staff in the premier’s office as he had already left the service before the audit was fully underway.

Swarbrick explained that no politicians, including Bush, were interviewed because it is the responsibility of public sector employees to account for the cash and what has happened to public money and why. That was why the civil servants are witnesses to the public accounts committee and not ministers, he pointed out.

Regarding Bush’s insistence that management responses to audits that involved his office or ministry should come from him, Swarbrick said, “I believe he misunderstands the accountability for public money.”

He said that politicians create and communicate their policies and can even direct the implementation but they do not carry out that implementation or direct who gets public money. Swarbrick said the civil servants must implement the directives of politicians in accordance with the policy, law and international standards.

He said that there was, however, still some confusion and uncertainty regarding the role of government workers versus ministers, with civil servants sometimes afraid to step up and prevent politicians overstepping boundaries, thereby, in some cases, abdicating their responsibilities for the management of taxpayers’ money to the political arm of government.

The auditor general said that the message coming from the deputy governor was that he was keen to improve the understanding about the different roles of public servants and politicians as it was getting in the way of effective government.

“It is fundamentally important that we have this conversation in government to clearly establish roles,” Swarbrick added.

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is all too ridiculous for words so I am writing nothing further. Thank you.

  2. AGS says:

    Anyone with a lick of sense have just ignored Macs rantings. Anyone that questions his actions is on a “witchhunt” according to him. The AG’s job is to scrutinize government expenditure and determine if value for money was achieved. The deals being signed off by the Attorney General as “legal” does not automatically confirm compliance or value for money. Mac continuously tries to make every auditor General look like they are trying to make the Cayman Islands look bad but they are only reporting on what has occurred rather than trying to “explain it away” as Mac does.
    With the NBF did organizations and individuals receive funds without any formal application process? Yes! Is this something that the auditor General should highlight? Absolutely! When the government made an agreement with Dart about purchase of land, future concessions that will affect the country without much input from anyone, does the auditor General have the authority to highlight this? Absolutely! It is how we should have checks and balances. Every time Mac opens his mouth I cringe, the world sees him as our former premier and laughs. I am ashamed and embarrassed by this man. Why can’t he just crawl into a corner and be quiet?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sorry NotTheTroll, read your Constitution and look at the government organisational chart

    The DPP does not report to, or fall under the Attorney General. She is appointed by the Governor as is the Auditor General, Attorney General, Complaints Commissioner, etc.

  4. Knot S Smart says:

    If a cat has nine lives then Mckeeva must have 29…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sure he does.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is silly. Surely the Attorney General reviewed and signed off on these deals as perfectly legal. Egg on Swarbrick’s face when those legal opinions are produced…

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should the AG have been involved? Are you suggesting he was complicit in all this?

    • Anonymous says:

      1:04 – there is a difference between an opinion on legal validity and enforceability which is issued by the Attorney General and compliance with laws governing the actions of government and the relevant process which the Auditor General can certainly express an opinion on too! Bottom line is the Attorney General can certainly advise that an agreement which the government has signed is legally. Valid when at the same time the laws relating to process may have been bulldozed! That about sums up the Mucktruck approach to wukin tings!

    • Anonymous says:

      The last time Sam Bulgin reviewed and signed off on anything was 2003.

    • Anonymous says:

      Only egg landing squarely on face is in Mac’s face – and possibly yours for making a comment such as this proving to the rest of us that you have no idea what you are talking about.

  7. Teflon Mac says:

    In latest news McKeeva Bush demonstrates utter lack of knowledge of process. More at 11.

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. Anonymous says:

    He has sat quietly and done his job well, now that he is leaving I hope he shares all of his findings. It is no easy task to clean up the mess left behind by by two political parties, namley the PPM and UDP. Well done sir wish you all the best in your new role and that your replacement does the job as well as you have.

    • Live Free.... says:

      Where in the Auditors Report you see PPM being mention, he highlighted the UDP Government deals from 2009-2012, which included the NBF, Shetty and Dart/NRA Deal with the West Bay. The Auditor set down some Guide Lines to avoid the kind of abuse to Public Funds to ever happen again, and the Premier(PPM) and Deputy Governor is looking to Implement the recommendation made by the Auditor General, Mr. Swarbrick.

      Live Free…..

      • Anonymous says:

        Prior to 2009 please recall which political party failed to prepare audited government accounts. Both parties are a mess. #byefelicia

        • Anonymous says:

          It is the party system that is a mess.i wish we could select politicians like juries intead of kickbacks and false promises to the people

  10. Anonymous says:

    What Bush doesn’t seem to realise is that Swarbrick has to run issues like this past the FCO’s Legal Directorate and one of their specific tasks is dealing with the law relating to OTs. They wouldn’t have let him make any public statements on this unless they were sure he was on safe ground.

  11. Anonymous says:

    You’re finished mckeewa bush. Praise be to the Almighty.

  12. WaYaSay says:

    I agree that the Auditor has the right to opine or give his opinion on weather funds spent by Government are compliant, within the confines of the laws that govern them. He can recommend them to the Attorney General, who is the only person under the Constitution that can declare them unlawful or illegal and move them to prosecution.

    If the Auditor General was intended to be the one to determine if something is unlawful or illegal, he would have been given the power, under the Constitution to prosecute and move the Shetty and the NRA/Dart deal into the courts, where a Judge would determine if laws have been broken and punish the guilty party to the extent the law allows.

    If the Auditor General has the power to determine the illegality of anything, then the Attorney General, who has been very quiet on this issue of the Shetty and NRA/Dart deal, is in a hell of a pickle.
    Is the Attorney General in dereliction of his duties by not bringing charges and prosecuting because the Auditor General says something is unlawful or illegal? I don’t think so.

    Having said that, I do not disagree with any of the Auditor General’s opinions in the two reports in question……….just his insistence that he has the power to determine if something is illegal or not. If he had the power to make that determination, he would have been given the power to insist that prosecutions happen.

    The Auditor General is the Auditor General and the Attorney General is the Attorney General…………in any Country!

    • Anonymous says:

      the police have power to determine if someone has broken the law, but not the power to insist that prosecution happens that is the DPP..

      • NotThe Troll says:

        I agree the police do………I think that is provided for in the constitution.

        The DDP comes under the remit of the Attorney General’s Office hence my reference to the Attorney General.

        Signed “not the troll”

    • WaYaSay says:


  13. Anonymous says:

    Mr Swarbick, brilliantly said however you will need to use words of 3 letters or less for Mac to understand. Even then he will probably choose not to understand. Unless it suits him. Which it won’t, in this case.

    • Anonymous says:

      And try not to use the letter “v” in any explanation, no matter how short the word.

    • Cass says:

      Mac not as stupid as you would have people believe; sorry to let you down. For having only a high school education the man is quite sharp, not easy to fool him.

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