Auditor general signs first set of full accounts

| 30/09/2015 | 17 Comments
Cayman News Service

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick

(CNS): Five years after arriving in the Cayman Islands and on the eve of his departure, Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has finally signed his first ever set of government consolidated accounts after his office was able to conduct an audit on the information submitted for the 2013/14 financial year. The accounts were, however, issued with an adverse opinion and he said the state of government finances remains far from ideal. But as he prepares to leave, Swarbrick said that, given the “appalling” and “dire” circumstances he found the public books in when he arrived in 2010, genuine efforts have been made by government to improve the situation.

Speaking to the media at his last formal press briefing before he leaves Cayman for his new job in Paris with the OECD and reflecting on his five years, he said the situation with the accounts had been a major stumbling block to his office’s ability to do more proactive audits on general governance and the management of public spending.

Swarbrick said that the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) had been preoccupied with assisting government accountants with their financial reporting, diverting the team’s attention from other work regarding not just the management and expenditure of the public purse, but the quality and delivery of services and whether they provide value for money.

While it may appear that the audits, reports and recommendations which Swarbrick’s team have undertaken over the last five years have had little impact, as reports keep revealing the same failings and shortcomings in governance procedures, he said that some of the audits had made a real difference. He pointed to the introduction of a travel policy and a saving of some $1 million as a result of following the recommendations his office made to tighten up the expenditure on travel and hospitality by both the political and administrative arm of government. He said that government is also now working on a procurement law following his first report on the procurement process back in 2011 and in general things were beginning to change.

However, the outgoing auditor spoke about the frustratingly slow pace of change and the magnitude of the financial reporting situation that has dominated his five year tenure as the auditor general. Swarbrick said, however, that the publication of the Entire Public Sector consolidated accounts that he signed off for the 2013/14 financial year, despite being given an adverse opinion, was a sign that things had certainly improved.

The report has now been sent to the Legislative Assembly and the public will get to see the first copy of a properly audited annual report for core government’s entire finances for the first time since the 2003/04 financial year. Government went for over a decade without being able to meet the requirements of its own Public Management and Finance Law, which came into force in 2005.

Alongside the ESP, the auditor said that he has also completed another annual review of the overall state of accounts at the ministries, portfolios, government companies and statutory authorities, which will also be released into the public domain within the next few weeks.

Swarbrick pointed to the significant advances in government financial reporting but he said it was important not to “overstate” the case as it was by no means where it should be. He said it should be normal for all government entities to be submitting accurate and supported accounts on time for audit and for unqualified opinions to be given. But he pointed to the legacy problems of asset values, the pension and healthcare liabilities and numerous other issues that are still undermining the quality of the accounts. But there was no doubt, given the terrible starting point, the significant effort to address the problem had resulted in noticeable progress.

But the amount of time, effort and resources spent on addressing the situation was one of the biggest disappointments during his tenure in Cayman as it seriously limited the work of his office to conduct public audits on much wider issues than the fundamentals of financial reporting. With so many challenges in government, Swarbrick said he regretted the fact that many of the subject areas he wanted to look at were sacrificed for the sake of getting the public accounts on track.

Check back to CNS later for more from the auditor ahead of his departure and the release of another damning audit report this Friday.

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This country has a lot of money passing thru our banks. More then most along with the hedge funds. Any department that cannot produce a fiscal accountibilty on how money is spent is delequint of carrying forth it’s duties and has cast a shadow of corruption over them. The CI Government cannot make a budget without knowing how and why money is spent. There are too many tuna fish smelling things going on. The Security Centre being contracted without due diligence is a big concearn. The way the tendering process is being circumvented or ignored is a big concern as millions of dollars are being spent and going into the coffers of this company no matter how big of a failure the service They provide proves. We have seen strange things before like road work contracts being awarded and private drives paved. This bears looking into. Can CNS get a full accounting of costs, tenders etc of all Government work that is performed my the Security Centre?

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s such an onerous, thankless but necessary task; sadly, one which will always be relentlessly criticised by those who benefit from the underhand and corrupt practices that seem so rife within Cayman, particularly in Government. Well done AG, you did a great job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Mr. Auditor general…..the more Mackeeva squealed the more we realized you were doing your job.

  3. Reality Check says:


    Especially if this is the first full set of consolidated accounts sign off for 2013/14. In the real world there are consequences, clear accountability and firings so do not get excited and throw a national holiday just yet there is lots of work to be done.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to Mr. Swarbrick for accomplishing this agonizing milestone. Alas, it looks like all good things must come to an end, at least for now.
    Actually doing your duty in his position is a thankless job and ultimately means one must “get out of Dodge”. Hopefully we’ll see someone with the same fortitude as his successor and that his effort will be the norm.

    Bon voyage Mr. Swarbrick

  5. Anonymous says:

    Congrats to Marco.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It would have be far more appropriate for the Premier to have been addressing this issue at the CoC today.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just like all good expats he must go and he is welcome to the club of watching from a distance 1 step forward 2 steps back

    • Anonymous says:

      Kenneth Jefferson was an auditor in the former Auditor General, Nigel Esdaile’s office. Although Esdaile was not impressed by him, that may be an out of date view. No one really knows what Ken as Financial Secretary does so why not make him the new Auditor General – a Caymanian.

      • Anonymous says:

        How can any AG be related to half the island and expect not to get put under pressure to say nice things? Caymans biggest problem. Now the sherrifs are leaving the bandits will rule the roost.

      • Anonymous says:

        Riiight. He couldn’t even put in place a policy that politicians shouldn’t use government credit cards for personal use (i.e. Casinos and jewellery). Any more bright ideas.

        • Anonymous says:

          A politician with any kind of moral compass doesn’t need such a policy. Sadly, you may have a point

        • Alan says:

          Thank you Deputy Governor Premier and Minister of Finance ….finally some leadership in Government history has been made and the best is yet to come ..

          • anonymous says:

            You are wayyy too funny, clearly you are someone who has never worked a day in the Civil Service. At least wait until he shows up for the usual photo op to tell him thanks for that, that’s about all he contributed to this process

      • Anonymous says:

        He’s like his predecessor. If they add two and two and get four, send it to Price Waterhouse or KPMG for auditing!

      • Chris Johnson says:

        I am pleased you mentioned Nigel. He was a fine AG but seldom attracted publicity because his reports were rarely published and/ or suppressed from being published. Hopefully those days have gone for good and that the next AG will have the same qualifications, ethics and balls as Nigel, Alastair and Dan. Cayman should recognize that these three gentlemen have had to contend with some pretty stressful situations but always remained cool and objective in performing their duties. Their’s will be hard shoes to fill.

        • Anonymous says:

          Nigel didn’t always remain “cool”, Mr Johnson (he had a temper!) but I agree completely with your comment! Nigel’s efforts were the first to elevate the role of the Auditor General in Cayman and make people sit up and take notice.

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