PAC queries value of social affairs OBC

| 06/09/2017 | 19 Comments
Cayman News Service

PAC Chair Ezzard Miller, August 2017

(CNS): The chair of the Public Accounts Committee and Auditor General Sue Winspear both raised concerns Wednesday that the $180,000 that government spent on an outline business case (OBC) to look at social assistance provided to the elderly, disabled and indigent was a waste of time. Ezzard Miller said he was very worried government had wasted public money on nothing more than secretarial services after Winspear outlined her concerns that the OBC would not achieve the recommendations her office made in an audit of the costly social assistance programmes.

The chief officer of the Ministry of Community Affairs, Dorine Whittaker, spent well over two hours in the chair as a witness for the PAC answering questions about the OBC, which she had not given to the committee as promised. She said she could not supply the OBC to the committee because it had not yet been before Cabinet, despite the fact that it was integral to how her ministry was going to address the auditor general’s recommendations in the 2015 report “Government Supporting Those in Need“. 

Nevertheless, Miller pressed on with the meeting in the absence of the still secret OBC report and asked Whittaker how it would improve things. In a sometimes confusing session, where it was really not clear what work had been done, what had improved or what the future held for social assistance, the chief officer’s evidence appeared to imply that any fundamental changes to the Needs Assessment Unit and other relevant departments would not be apparent for another four years.

It was also clear that the OBC boiled down to an option between government maintaining the status quo or adopting an integrated strategy that would see the NAU reintegrated into the Department of Children and Family Services and the establishment of a standard payment that would be the same across the board for the various categories of different people in need.

The auditor general, who revealed that she too had not seen the OBC, said that from what she heard during the morning session, it was not going to address the fundamental problems her office had first identified — a point she raised when she met with the representatives from KPMG, the consultants who wrote the OBC, and the ministry staff.

“We did at the outset express concerns around the terms of reference …for the work KPMG were going to undertake. From this morning’s hearing, those reservations remain,” she said. “Our first recommendation in the 2015 audit report was about developing a strategy around the social assistance programmes. So by that, we are not talking about how government organises itself and its back office to deliver services, we are talking about what is the policy you are trying to achieve for older people, for unemployed people, for disabled people. We saw the first step, before getting into consideration of what are the options, as the development of a strategy or policy position.”

She pointed to the new older persons policy and the disabilities law and described them as a good basis to work from, but she said the response by the ministry to the recommendations of her audit that the OBC would deliver the missing strategy was misplaced.

“I seriously doubt it does do that,” Winspear added. She pointed out that she had already told the ministry and consultants that the time they took to do the OBC was “insufficient to do the strategy work”, as she made it clear she did not feel the OBC was going to achieve the policy strategy needed to address the issues.

”For me, I am not persuaded that coming up with the ‘do nothing’ or an integrated approach is addressing the fundamental issue of how people in need are best served by social assistance programmes,” she said.

Miller said it appeared government had paid $180,000 for secretarial services edited by two overseas consults who had some expertise in health, which was outside the scope of the ministry’s review, and one social care expert.

Speaking to CNS after the morning session, Miller was clearly frustrated by the failure of the ministry to supply the OBC, the time it appears it will take to sort out this critical part of government and the lack of specifics.

“I am confused about the purpose and the outcome of the OBC, but the CO is more confused than me,” he added.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Sharkey says:

    I wonder if why Mr Miller is so frustrated is because when the Government does these programs , they puts in too many different things that don’t relate to the program in , and puts someone in charge of the program who doesn’t know how to run it . To me that sounds like what could be the problem and cause allot of frustration and waste of money. Or how those programs are setup with a lot of loopholes that can cause corruption .

    That’s what I believe.

    • Anonymous says:

      With Dorine Whitaker as Chief Officer what can possibly go wrong? Sacked by McKeeva and seemingly in a position not suited for her now. Absolutely poor leadership at the Ministry from senior civil servants

      • Anonymous says:

        The only person from this session that gave proper responses was the Director of NAU. She was firm and honest about what is really going on and it is evident the Ministry needs proper leadership. This is why functioning Civil Servants end up being demoralized. Well will something be done? We shall see…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Strict vetting of these recepients need to be done. Some of these persons receiving free money are strong able bodied who need to get a job and hold on to it for more than two weeks. When did our people become so helpless.. When I was growing up it was embarrassing to beg and take handouts. While I was in high school in the early sixties I would spend my Saturdays doing housework for an elderly.lady in the neighborhood to get a few dollars to help out with lunch during the week. There were hardly any jobs to be had especially part time. I stayed in school, graduated, went off island to college and I made sure I got my job. No one was going to take it from. I showed up, did the work,got married, had my children, sent them to university, and no one is going to take their place in these Cayman Islands. People get up and go help yourselves instead of living off the dole. It an embarrassment and not the Cayman Way.

    • Anonymous says:

      A correction- actually it was a few shillings instead of dollars. I would get 5 or 10 shillings- whatever she could afford , and lunch.

      • Sharkey says:

        And that lunch , was called dinner back then . And for dinner today , that was called supper. The meals you got for the day was breakfast dinner and supper , and you had to eat what Mama cooked for that meal or you would get it for the next meal .

    • Anonymous says:

      7:09 Our people became helpless when they were forced out of the labor market by our own peeps; those in the House of Assembly, who approved it and those Merchants who gladly imported the cheap labor force we have today..

      We must put blame on the right shoulders.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This Premier that we have has spent too much of our money on these useless reports. Why? I guess it is easier to do that than huddle down with the persons who have/ will have oversight and responsibility to implement these procedures going forward. We know the Premier will be too busy with his extra curriculum but surely there must be persons in these departments with the knowledge along with members of other organizations and the wider public. Bring these persons together and come up with some strategies.. We are paying hundred of thousands dollars for these reports that seemingly are not worth the paper they are written on. This time it seems as the very report is not even available to the Auditor General nor the PAC committee. A waste of time and money.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Duhhh, we did it again. Handing out money for no reason and getting no results to questions we couldn’t answer ourselves because…..wait what was the question again……duuuhhhh

  5. Anonymous says:

    When did the AG become an expert in how people in need are best served by social assistance? Isn’t she an accountant?

    • Chris Johnson says:

      I am bemused by your comment about the AG being a mere accountant. KPMG are also accountants, the firm that was employed to do the report.
      Have I missed something?

      By the way the credentials for being an Auditor General are pretty high and thank goodness all those who serve and have served our country have risen to such heights. We should be grateful for their contribution to our island.

      • Anonymous says:

        I concur, with Mr. Johnson and believe the post about the AG being a mere Accountant was sarcasm, even though tasteless. I have no doubt about her credentials but like you really don’t understand why the information in the Report from KPMG seems to be so useless. KPMG are professional accountants with much experience, I wonder if government refuse to use the report and the chief officer instead mumbled and bumbled through a different report done by her office. Perhaps the government didn’t make KPMG report available to PAC and Ms. WInspear because they do not want to accept what is in it. This would not be the first time something like this has happened. Remember the Ritch Report.

      • Fred the piemaker says:

        An accountant with a lot of experience in public sector financing and accountability

      • Anonymous says:

        Credentials get your foot in the door, but if you have poor performance your credentials will make you look more of a fool if you hadn’t had any.

      • Anonymous says:

        The KPMG accountants were doing what accountants do. The AG was opining about strategy for delivery of social services. She may be a genius but it is not evident that this is within her area of expertise.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Either there is no OBC or it’s 2 pages written in crayon, and the $180k has been divided among the usual pockets. Nobody wants to mess with a program that allows government to hand out free money or introduce any oversight.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, there is an OBC. But you forget that OBC is EY-Report-Speak for ‘make Govt. give private sector jobs’, the best of which are writing OBCs. (Badly in this particular case.)

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