Auditor General will be vigilant

Auditor General Dan Duguay said in an interview on Tuesday that his office would investigate any government contract if it thinks there is something inappropriate about it.

‘As with all government contracts, we monitor them carefully,’ he said. ‘If we think there is something not appropriate, we’ll look into it.’

Mr. Duguay said contracts worth a lot of money were of ‘natural interest to my office.’

He mentioned the contracts for the Affordable Housing Initiative, for the debris removal by MC Restoration and for the building of the two new high schools as examples of the types of agreements his office would naturally monitor.

Mr. Duguay’s comments came on the heels of complaints by the Cayman Contractors Association over the tendering process of the Affordable Housing Initiative’s 72-apartment project off Eastern Avenue.

Representatives of the CCA confirmed they met with the Auditor General on Monday to speak about the tendering process for that project.

Mr. Duguay said his office provided a place for people to go with complaints about government procedures that related to financial matters, including tendering.

‘If there’s a problem with tendering, we want to know as soon as possible,’ he said.

Mr. Duguay said the Auditor General’s office has broad powers to initiate investigations into government procedures, and no one, not even the Governor, can prevent him from investigating a matter.

‘In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need an Auditor General, because everything would be transparent,’ he said. ‘But just the existence of our office makes the government more transparent.’

Sometimes, the Auditor General’s office will act very quickly to investigate a matter, as it did with MC Restoration, Mr. Duguay said.

However, Caymanian guidelines often prevent the Auditor General’s reports from being released to the public in a timely fashion.

‘It isn’t the way I’d like it to be,’ he said. ‘Under the present rules, the reports go to the Speaker of the House who then tables it confidentially to the members of the Legislative Assembly.

‘It then goes to the Public Accounts Committee, which makes a report of its own on the report of the Auditor General, and then it’s made public in Legislative Assembly.

‘I believe that we’d be much better served if the system were like Bermuda and Canada, where the document is tabled in Legislative Assembly and made public right away,’ he said.

Responding to recent comments from Minister of Community Services Frank McField that he had a ‘Eurocentric attitude’ because his office relied on written documentation, Mr. Duguay said it was true he had to base his reports on known facts.

‘Auditor Generals look at all the documents we’re allowed to look at,’ he said.

‘Dr. McField mentioned to me the discussions that took place in Cabinet, but we’re not entitled to look at minutes of Cabinet meetings.

‘It’s not for the lack of interest, though. We would have looked at them if they were provided,’ he said.

‘If that makes me Eurocentric, I guess I am, along with every other are Auditor General.’

Mr. Duguay also took exception to Mr. McField’s comment that he knew ‘absolutely nothing about construction’ because of a suggestion he made in his report on the AHI.

The Auditor General’s report on the AHI stated that CI Precast might have been able to build homes at a lower cost if it had known it could reduce the thickness of its wall from six inches toward the 2.36 inches of those made by the company that was awarded the contract.

‘We weren’t trying to say the walls should be poured to two inches or six inches,’ said Mr. Duguay. ‘We were just trying to compare apples to apples.

‘I’m not an engineer, but I know if you make walls thinner, the cost could go down,’ he said.

CI Precast’s owner Gilles Langlois has since said pre-stressed walls could in fact be poured to as little as two inches.

Mr. Duguay said he would make a similar comparison in any report.

‘I did it in that one and I’m going to do it in the next one,’ he said.

The Auditor General said he also looks for procedures that are illegal.

‘If we have something concrete, we’ll turn it over to the police,’ he said.

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