Auditor to release findings on controversial fund

| 06/08/2015 | 35 Comments
Cayman News Service

The Wesleyan Holiness Church in West Bay, where McKeeva Bush once attended regularly. received over $1.2 million from the NBF for development projects but ended up returning more than half as a result of the controversies over the cash

(CNS) A report on the now defunct Nation Building Fund (NBF), which was created by former premier McKeeva Bush using public cash to finance churches, worthy causes and students who failed to get or lost scholarships, will be released on Monday. The controversial fund, which was set up by Bush and managed by the premier’s office, was spent mostly on church projects and young people who had not met the requirements for Education Council grants. But with undefined criteria and claims that Bush himself decided who got what, the fund came in for heavy criticism.

With more than $10 million of taxpayers’ cash spent on applicants to the fund without clear criteria, the NBF was an obvious candidate for review by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick and he confirmed some years ago that his office would be taking a close look. It is understood that the review of the fund has taken some time as a result of the difficulties the audit team has had clearing the management responses.

The NBF was controversial from its inception in 2010, when during a late night session of Finance Committee a motion was moved to create the fund by reallocating money from the legal aid budget and a proposed dock in Bodden Town. As time went on, the fund became ever more controversial, which led to a number of churches paying back the cash they received.

During the election campaign the fund became a target again and was often described as Bush’s ‘slush fund’, and after the UDP split in the wake of his arrest over allegations of misuse of his government credit card in casinos, even his former party colleagues took aim at the NBF.

Shortly after taking up office the current PPM government terminated the NBF, which had been funded annually to the tune of around $4 million. Scholarships from the fund were added to the remit of the Education Council and students who had received cash from the NBF were once again expected to meet the official criteria and grades to continue receiving cash for college.

Although some information about the allocation of the funds and amounts spent were released into the public domain as a result of a number of freedom of information requests, the details of how and why applications from churches, community projects, students and other local causes were selected, as well as who and what were rejected, were not revealed.

The report remains under wraps until Monday, with only MLAs in possession at present of the full and final draft. But anyone who has followed the work of the auditor general over the last few years will be well aware of what the report is likely to find. From concerns about political interference over how public cash is spent to the breakdown of checks and balances, the NBF is unlikely to be given the stamp of approval by the public accounts watchdog.

This will be the fourth report released by the audit office over the last month but the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, which examines the reports by the Office of the Auditor General, has not yet set a date when they will next meet.

PAC has yet to review the findings of the OAG’s reports on the management of major government projects, welfare spending and government’s land and development policies. All three of the previous projects raised red-flags about the mismanagement of public cash, government incompetence, and failures in the system, poor value for money, inappropriate political interference and the possibility of real corruption.

See all the latest reports on the OAG website

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Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    looking forward to the report…..but nothing will happen afterwards….welcome to cayman where there is zero accountablitly or responsibility taken….

  2. Anonymous says:

    All the churches and so called religious non profit organisations in Cayman should be subject to an audit. Some might be surprised at who is really laundering money.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “proposed dock in Bodden Town”?

    Would that be the dock that we almost had before the UDP ripped it all down again?

    • Bollard says:

      Dock for who? The vagrants permanently lounging at Coe Wood Beach?

      • Anonymous says:

        Have you ever tried to strike up a conversation with these “vagrants” rather than look down your nose with disdain at them? I am a female expat and I walk my dogs on that beach. I regularly sit down and chat to those guys when I pass and they’re really not as bad as you would have everybody think of them. In fact they always offer to carry my water bottles when I am at the gas station and never expect anything in return, they are always pleasant to me, and you might find they would be to you if you could just stop your arrogance and petty superior ways.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I do not see it as a national building fund but as WHC and WCA church fund. I guess we will never know the millions that was wasted.

  5. Darwin says:

    Treason!

  6. Debbie says:

    No one has said we have no corruption ….like all countries we do……but we’re are not steeped in corruption and we are certainly not turning a blind eye . Come on get real and get the facts.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Alden. Get on television and tell us again how we do not tolerate corruption in the Cayman Islands!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I hope they publish what /who the money was spent on I clearly remember a girl and her family going to the UK to get her set up into university the govt paid for all of them to go
    I sat and covered her shift at work ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,that’s sick being I had to pay for my childs university myself and pay to visit out of my pocket
    what really pisses me off is the new Mercedes in front of their 4000 sqft home such users taking advantage of everything govt can hand out Whats really sad is how they sometimes cant pay their utility bill and have to go beg social services for it

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hurry up Monday!!!!! This should be good!

  10. Lee Sage says:

    Mac, Are you All Done?

  11. Anonymous says:

    I hope Swarbrick does not hold back and goes right ahead and names (and thereby shames) the recipients of these Bush-allocated funds, particularly the “scholarship” funds. Some of these recipients were grinning up in peoples’ faces and boasting about how they got money “just by going to McKeewa cos he gets tings done”.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So what??? ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  13. Mac Daddy says:

    Oh goody. Just booked Monday off!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully the report will make it clear whether we ever got our 2 million back from mckeewa’s church.

  15. Lee Sage says:

    The FIRST thing that should be done is correct the name from National Building Fund to National Vote-buying Fund!

  16. All Done says:

    There is NO corruption in the Cayman Islands. How many times must this be affirmed in order for it to be believed??!

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