OCC staffer questioned about conflict

Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly members have raised questions about whether a conflict of interests exists within the Offices of the Complaints Commissioner and Auditor General, the islands’ two main government watchdogs.

‘The auditor general is in charge of one of the major complaints machinery in this country and his wife is in charge at one of the major complaints machinery of this country,’ Sister Islands MLA Julianna O’Connor-Connolly said during a Finance Committee hearing last week.

The committee was reviewing the annual budget for the Office of the Complaints Commissioner and Acting Commissioner Susan Duguay was providing information related to the OCC budget. Her husband, Dan Duguay, is the Cayman Islands auditor general.

Mrs. Duguay is actually not in charge at the OCC, she is an administrative and investigative officer. She was answering questions at the committee last week because Complaints Commissioner John Epp was off island.

However, finance committee members said the husband- and wife-relationship does raise concerns about the operation of both the OCC and auditor’s office.

‘There is a concern about spouses…in key positions within certain sectors within government,’ West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin said. ‘For example, if Mr. Burns Connolly went to the complaints commissioner with a complaint about the audit office.’

Mr. Connolly has recently been involved in a public spat with the auditor’s office over a special report Mr. Duguay released on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal project in 2005. Mr. Connolly has asked Governor Stuart Jack to investigate the matter.

Mr. Duguay said whatever complaints Mr. Connolly, or anyone, had about the audit office; they would never be addressed or investigated by the complaints commissioner.

‘One of the things (the OCC) can’t do is investigate a complaint related to the office of the Auditor General,’ he said.

Mr. Epp also denied any suggestion of a conflict of interest.

‘I do not believe that Mrs. Duguay is in a conflict of interest position,’ he said. ‘The role of the Auditor General is a role that is complementary to the role of the Complaints Commission. We investigate issues of administrative process and the Auditor General investigates issues of the use of public (government) funds.’

Mrs. Duguay, who joined the complaints commissioner’s office in July 2006, said she did not want to comment about the issues of conflict, which were raised in finance committee.

One of Mrs. Duguay’s responsibilities at the complaints commissioner’s office is to prepare the annual budget documents, which must be audited as a matter of course.

However, Mr. Duguay said his office has taken steps to prevent any perception of conflict of interests there.

‘I no longer audit the books for the Office of the Complaints Commissioner,’ he said, adding that particular area of the budget is reviewed by Deputy Auditor General Garnet Harrison and other staff members.

When questioned by opposition party members about the issue, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said he would be willing to discuss the matter with Chief Secretary George McCarthy. However, Mr. Tibbetts said the offices of the complaints commissioner and auditor general fall under the remit of the governor.

‘I don’t see (the husband and wife issue) as a material conflict of interests,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

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