Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said in the Legislative Assembly last week the Caymanian Compass wrote a misleading article concerning an Auditor General’s audit into the certain activities of the Port Authority.
The Compass article refuted a previous Cayman Net News report that stated the Auditor General would be undertaking ‘an investigation into alleged irregularities that took place at the Port Authority during the term of the previous UDP government’.
When the Caymanian Compass contacted the Auditor General’s office, not one, but two senior staff members said the only audit currently under way concerning the Port Authority was one they called a routine value-for-money audit initiated over one year ago.
The Acting Auditor General also indicated the scope of that audit did not include the matter of Port Authority property next to the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
Mr. Clifford has since confirmed he has written the Governor about further matters concerning the Port Authority which he calls ‘irregularities’, including a matter about the property adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton.
The Cabinet also stated two members of the Auditor General’s office attended a Cabinet meeting recently in which they were requested to review these additional matters urgently.
The problem is, neither Mr. Clifford nor the Governor can tell the Auditor General what to do. They can request, but in the end, it’s the Auditor General’s decision whether something merits an audit, or a more urgent investigation.
It remains to be seen whether the Auditor General will choose to look into Port Authority matters beyond the current audit in the future, but as of now, they have not made that decision. No doubt when Auditor General Dan Duguay returns from holiday on 1 August, it will be high on his agenda.
Cayman Net News, as is often the case, does not name the source of its information concerning the Auditor General’s ‘investigation’ but it apparently did not ask the Auditor General’s office, otherwise it would have heard the same answer the Caymanian Compass received.
By saying, or even inferring, the Auditor General has initiated an investigation prior to that office actually doing so, not only puts undue pressure on the Auditor General, it misleads the public.
Mr. Clifford took that pressure further by stating in the House that if the Auditor General’s staff said no further investigation was under way, it suggests the office ‘is seriously deficient of resources or skills to properly deal with such matters’.
Mr. Clifford went on to issue what Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush called a ‘veiled threat’ to the Auditor General’s office by saying that if it didn’t have the resources it would have to acquire them ‘or the Governor would have to look at alternatives in the future’.
Mr. Clifford seems to forget he doesn’t tell the Governor what to do either, at least not yet; until there is a review of the Constitution and that provision is included.
In the end, this matter likely comes down to politics, and an attempt by the PPM government to undermine its political opposition.
McKeeva Bush has said he welcomes any investigation into the Port Authority, but asks for it to occur without interference from the Minister of Tourism.
In the spirit of fair play good order, and the rule of law, we agree with Mr. Bush.
While other news media may repeat whatever the PPM government tells it, the Caymanian Compass will continue to check the facts to give a balanced and unbiased view of both sides of the political spectrum.