Archer aims to hold CS bosses accountable

| 30/11/2015 | 23 Comments
Cayman News Service

Marco Archer, Minister of Finance & Economic Development (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

(CNS): The minister of finance has revealed that amendments to the Public Management and Finance Law next year will include powers for his ministry to enforce compliance and hold chief officers accountable over public finances. Marco Archer said sanctions are proposed that aim to improve the quality of information and timeliness of financial reporting, particularly as it relates to government’s consolidated accounts. He also revealed a number of other changes to the law to help government get a better grade from the Office of the Auditor General.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly Thursday, the minister sought to explain the problems surrounding government’s consolidated accounts and its financial reporting. Pointing to a number of issues, Archer he said that it was also the intention to centralise the finance functions in the Ministry of Finance to improve compliance with the law and consistency in the application of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) as well as to meet the recommendations of the OAG over the last few weeks.

“Currently, each ministry, portfolio and office has its own separate chief financial officer and finance function. Suffice it to say, the audit office has said what it thinks of the decentralised approach every time they have issued an opinion on the government’s financial and performance reporting,” he said.

Outlining plans to also change the law to tackle the problems government has with the way it reports certain liabilities, such as the post-retirement healthcare liabilities, he said that government also disagrees with the auditor general at present over how pension liabilities are reported.

Pointing to government ambitions to cut future liabilities, he said changes to civil service benefits are on the cards, but while the increase in retirement age has been settled, introducing health insurance premium co-pay for civil servants and reducing the current CI$5 million “cap” on the maximum lifetime medical benefits are significant and changes which will require time for discussion with the civil service.

“It is expected that any such changes will not occur until 2018,” he said, as he asked anyone who knew of a more viable, palatable and less inflammatory or financially damaging approach to come forward.

These major liabilities were, he said, among a number of “macro” issues that have led to an adverse opinion on the 2013/14 EPS consolidated financial statements. But although an adverse opinion is not on government, he described it as “a significant attestation that its financial performance has improved” as accounts had been previously disclaimed.

“Government intends to use this opportunity to address the issues that caused the issuance of an adverse opinion and aims to achieve greater accountability and transparency,” he said.

Changing the law appears to be a major tool in the plan to improve the opinions, though he also pointed to administrative changes, including “enhanced guidance” from his ministry and restarting monthly meetings with chief financial officers.

With individual agencies making improvements in accounting, Archer said the problems with the EPS were “policy-related factors”, which would be addressed.

Archer made no comment, however, on the recent criticisms from the acting auditor general about the lack of accountability of government on public spending because the majority of financial statements are still not accompanied by proper management reports that explain the numbers and for the ongoing delays in making reports public and accessible.

Statement by Minister Marco Archer on the Government’s Financial and Performance Reporting, 26 November 2015

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Comments (23)

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  1. O'Really Factor says:

    Accountability starts at the top so shouldn’t Franz Manderson be leading this discussion instead of the Minister of Finance who has no control or power over Civil Service managers? Politicians come and go yet the financial management and reporting problems are the same every year.

    When will our politicos understand that we see thru the rhetoric? Why didnt Archer do this from the beginning in 2013 or now give details about the plan and sanctions? It’s obvious he is in campaign mode just like the others and proving himself no different when it comes to making promises and delivering actual results.

  2. Brain wave says:

    The facts are

    The public service has consistently submitted their financial statements on time to the audit office since 2011. You will have seem the recent audit report from the AG that stated that the 13 14 financial statements were the best ever including many clean opinions . I am told that 14 15 year financial statements will surpasse the previous year with another record of clean opinions. So the facts show the CFO’S are doing their jobs.

    • Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

      Turning in rubbish on time is still rubbish. Wake up mate the facts and proof is the adverse opinion which should have consequences but this is the Cayman government we are talking about. We know nothing will come out it besides more pretty words with no action.

      Just Another day in Absurdistan

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s clear to everyone that you work for the CIG. I say this based on both your constant defense of them and the many zzzzzzzs that used to pepper your responses, proving you’re asleep on the job. In addition, you can’t seem to comprehend the fact that “the best ever” is still pretty miserable, and incomplete reports are basically useless. My evidence is irrefutable; I rest my case.

  3. Anonymous says:

    buying votes, million dollar cleanup, Departments missing millions, Why? Because no one ever goes to jail. They are just reelected. Never mind, that what hou get.

  4. SSM345 says:

    More chance of Jesus returning or McKeeva apologizing to the Country than this ever happening or being enforced.

    • Anonymous says:

      I often defend the civil service in online discussions, but I have increasingly been on the receiving end of what can only be described as a creeping malaise. Someone has to take this organisation by the horns and try to get this lumbering creature back in shape and on track. I have to say, though, that this deadly miasma does not discriminate — the private sector is no better. I just can’t figure out what is behind this horror story. Maybe some one out there has an answer. Is it the outcome of the protracted economic recession?

      • Anonymous says:

        Service should be maintained, BUT, with most workers earning Decade-old salaries and Cost of Living, it’s no wonder morale is so low.

      • Anonymous says:

        I believe that the freeze on hiring coupled with the freeze on salaries has created a deadly cocktail that has resulted in low morale and extremely stretched resources. Unfortunately, this state of affairs has lasted so long it has become the norm. And this is true in the private sector as much as in the government service.

  5. Anonymous says:

    After the revelations about the HSA, Housing Authority, ERA, Turtle Farm, Airport Authority, Port Authority, Education Ministry, Juliana’s postal service and McKeevas ministry of finance, tourism, nation building and slot machines (let me know if I missed any) I think transparent finances are a long shot. I would be pleased if they would just stop being criminals.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t laugh outright but i’m still smiling. After all, civil servants vote – the OAG doesn’t. There’s just no way a politician is going to be able to push around a department head!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    What a joke. In any private sector company for the CEO/CFO to miss a legal accounting deadline would be grounds for serious disciplinary action if not dismissal. There is absolutely nothing to prevent the government holding the CO or CFO accountable apart from a lack of courage (aka political will).

    Hopefully they are changing the law to make such disciplinary action automatic in cases of avoidable non-compliance. If the CO does not give the CFO a written warning the CO gets one his or herself.

    Of course, no matter what is written into the law, there needs to be someone willing to enforce it. That would potentially require a breach of the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not fire a Caymanian.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Any law or rule that has anything to do with holding a Caymanian responsible for his/her actions especially financially will take at least one more whole generation to even become believable. This is due to the fact that past generations have been taught and lived their whole lives without being held accountable. They will not want to change that.

  9. Knot S Smart says:

    Marco means well but unfortunately his task to motivate the CS to be responsible will be as daunting as I found it to be to deal with my last wife… That is – like trying to push a Red Poll Bull up a hill – back-ways…

  10. Anonymous says:

    ‘the increase in the retirement age has been settled”? Has this been gazetted, or is it just a ‘say so’?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Good that the Minister intends to discuss proposed changes to health care eligibility with members of the Civil Service. In 2013 the Public Service Management Law and it’s associated Regulations impacting this very topic was changed with the full involvement of the Deputy Governor and his Chief Officer, WITHOUT any consultation with civil servants whatsoever. This change presently negatively impacts the health care eligibility CS of retirees.

    In any case, the Ministers efforts should be on the culture and mentality of many in the public service to simply waste public funds because their not their own. Hopefully the Minister’s agenda of implementing accountability will address that fundamental issue.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Will be a case of seeing is believing

  13. Anonymous says:

    yawn…the usual ppm ‘soon come’ approach….

  14. Anonymous says:

    Really?! Isn’t it 2015!? These laws are just being unforced… And we wonder why things are the way they are….

  15. Anonymous says:

    What are the sanctions for non-compliance? After over two years as Minister of Finance why has Marco not taken the necessary steps to address these fundamental issues? Perhaps there is an election around the corner in 18 months.

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