Cash wasted on ‘futile’ accounts

| 05/11/2015 | 29 Comments
Cayman News Service

Acting Auditor General Garnet Harrison

(CNS): Without the annual reports that explain the financial statements produced by public authorities and ministries, the Cayman Islands Government continues to waste public money on meaningless accounts, officials from the Office of the Auditor General have implied. They said the failure of most government entities to provide any supporting reports with their financial statements means that the massive effort to improve public finance reporting is ‘futile’ because the detailed statements are impossible for legislators or the public to interpret on their own, undermining efforts being made to produce timely accounts.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Acting Auditor General Garnet Harrison presented the OAG’s latest two reports (see below), which took an in-depth look at the state of government’s financial reporting. Noting the significant improvements in entities meeting the deadlines for the accounts, he nevertheless pointed to numerous problems, including the failure to support the figures with meaningful explanations.

“Legislators and the public alike should be able to understand and compare financial performance of the various entities that comprise the public sector,” Harrison said. In the private sector the bottom line may be the only thing that matters to someone interested in the accounts, but in government it is very different and the numbers are only part of the story, he said.

Harrison explained that the figures on government accounts are only part of what is required to meet the requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law and to be accountable to parliament and the people. Government agencies should also be producing annual reports that provide the information about their performance and how the money they were allocated in the budget has been spent.

Without this, “the process of preparing and auditing financial statements is pretty much reduced to an exercise in futility”, Harrison said in another damning statement on government’s ongoing failure to tell the people what it does with the more than $600 million it collects from taxpayers each year.

Financial statements on their own are hard to cypher, and while the enormous backlog of accounts is now being overcome, there is a huge next step for government, he explained.

His colleague, Martin Ruben, Performance Audit Principal at the OAG, pointed out that the government spends millions of dollars producing the accounts, so if it is spending that much public cash, the outcome of that should have an impact on decisions in government and in the LA.

But, he said, the latest OAG reports highlight that, despite preparing the detailed and costly financial statements and having “gone to great to lengths to meet international standards”, the legislators, the public and even government cannot use them if they don’t take the next step and publish the annual report.

Ruben explained that with quality reports, each entity can reflect on its own weaknesses or strengths and make improvements. The reports help public sector employees understand what is happening in their own departments and where the focus needs to be to better manage their public authority and understand their organisations better.

“Without the information, no one knows how they can make the improvements and effective changes. They are just working blindly,” he added.

In addition to their own annual report, the auditors pointed to those being produced by the Cayman Turtle Farm as an example of how the reports should be being presented.

Despite its numerous problems, the CTF is actually reporting the issues clearly and transparently, allowing the public to see where the more than $7.5 million of losses went.

Financial and Performance Reporting – Ministries, Portfolios and Offices for the years ending 30 June 2013 and 2014

Financial and Performance Reporting – Statutory Authorities and Government Companies for the years ending 30 June 2013 and 2014

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Foolish people and their money are soon parted.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Who are the Cayman Gang of Four that keep reading about in the International Press?

  3. Anonymous says:

    As a person here on a permit I am sickened and angered at the outright robbery that is exposed here day after day after day….
    This and the fact that hey, guess what, there are thousands of other places in the world to live is why I have begun (better late than never) my exit procedure.
    To every one else here on a permit I would say, look at what you are paying, and look to see if you receive benefit from it and realize you are paying for a large group of people that DO NOT CARRY THEIR OWN WEIGHT and well, have a nice day.
    My butt awaits the airplane door as it will be a mild sensation considering the alternative.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman Islands are well on their way to becoming bankrupt. Then the people who actually bring all the money here will leave with it and all Caymanians will have left is what they had before expats. Each other. But China will still be interested.

  4. George Nowak says:

    Just another day in paradise

  5. Anonymous says:

    My airport taxi drove by the government “gasboy” fuel station the other day and there we saw a Cadillac pimp mobile with 22″ rims fueling up in broad daylight – 2 pm sunshine without a care in the world. Clearly not a government protocol vehicle. At some point, the permissiveness of the CIG culture needs to change. Offenders throughout the CIG would think twice if they were assured they would be caught, charged, and sanctioned in the manner we would all expect in the private sector. It is a systemic problem from top to bottom and nothing has changed in decades.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey it’s only been 5 years since they discovered virtually every Caymanian was stealing petrol using the government cards. They’ve barely started hiring consultants to prepare a report. Give them time.

    • satirony says:

      What’s the problem? The rip-off was publicized years ago, and to expect anything other than generational change on the matter is being overly optimistic. Anyhow, it’ll sort itself out when electric cars become mainstream. By the way, how dare you refer to my Cadillac as pimp-mobile! I had the white fur seat covers removed as soon as I took delivery.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Any sign of the one billion that is still missing?

    • SSM345 says:

      Maybe it was the Drugs Task Force undercover ride…..?

    • sonia says:

      7:37. If you read the 13 14 accounts of the two ministries involved you will find it. Both ministries accounts have received qualified opnions (if you know what that is) . Gone are the days of missing one billion will at least one CNS poster read the opinions before commenting zzzzzzzzzzz

  7. F 'Orwever-onable says:

    When will it end?? We get the financial statements done and now they want to know where we spent the $600m? What is wrong with these people? It’s very inconvenient to have to explain that. Why can’t they just accept that each department gets money and we can do what we like with it? Now that’s much more sensible.

  8. sonia says:

    So let me see. First the government could not submit their accounts on time but now they do.

    Then the accounts were poor quality but that’s not the case anymore

    Now those same accounts are not worth anything because a glossy report has not been filed

    Sounds like the AG is making this up as he goes along

    But yet his 31 Oct deadline for auditing the accounts has passed and only a handful of accounts have been audited. You have broke the law AG.

    What are you doing about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sonia you’re clearly not used to having to justify what you’ve done with other people’s money otherwise you’d understand the point being made. It’s about explaining what happened with the money – going beyond a bunch of numbers to what they actually mean.
      “Without the information [in the annual report], no one knows how they can make the improvements and effective changes. They are just working blindly,”
      Of all the complaints you could have about an auditor, the idea that they are “making this up as [they] go along” is the most hilariously ignorant I can think of.
      Do you work in government, by any chance?

    • Anonymous says:

      ah yes. The dog ate my homework.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sonia, I wouldn’t comment on things going forward, especially in a public forum, your level of understanding is that of a child in kindergarten.

      • sonia says:

        Oh really. Well tell me how come none of you brilliant readers has never picked up on the fact that the AG has broken the law since 2004 by not auditing the accounts by 30 Oct. ?

        Oh and I actually work in the private sector where my auditor works with me to get a clean opinion and does not try and tear my company apart ….

        These press conferences have become a joke. They are all opinions the real fscts come out after the public accounts committee

        But none of you picked that up. And I’m ignorant …wake up people wake up zzzzzzzzzzzz

        • Anonymous says:

          Einstein is in the house!!!! And yes, dear Sonia, has it ever occurred to you that maybe they could not produce the accounts because the people who spent the money kept no records? Have you lived somewhere else in the last few years? Sometimes it is better just to hush up rather than try to show how clever you are.

        • SSM345 says:

          Sonia, please re-read my comment at 8:54, I meant it.

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