The Public Accounts Committee has postponed hearings scheduled to begin today concerning the auditor general’s report about the government’s delinquent reporting on its accounts.
PAC Chairman Osbourne Bodden sent an email to interested parties yesterday morning. The PAC was scheduled to hear testimony from senior civil servants on the late submission of the government’s accounts today and tomorrow.
‘It is with regret that I have been forced to cancel all PAC hearings planned for this week,’ Mr. Bodden said in his email. ‘This is in order to plan for and accommodate talks between the PPM and UDP on the new constitutional proposals in advance of next week’s talks with the FCO.’
Mr. Bodden apologised for any inconvenience caused to those expected to attend or give testimony in the proceedings, but said that all of the PAC members had expressed a desire to attend the talks between the PPM, UDP and non-governmental organisations scheduled to begin on Thursday at 10am at the Bodden Town Civil Centre.
Mr. Bodden said the PAC would conduct the postponed hearings as soon as the current meeting of the Legislative Assembly concluded. That meeting is adjourned until 6 October, pending the conclusion of the constitution talks with the United Kingdom scheduled to begin here Monday.
‘These hearings will be held as soon as possible in October and the usual notice will be provided,’ Mr. Bodden said in his email.
In an article that appeared in the Caymanian Compass Tuesday, Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin criticised the PAC for ‘jumping the gun’ in dealing with the Auditor General’s report on the lateness of the financial reporting while there were older reports that still await the PAC’s attention. Mr. Anglin also noted the PPM had said when it took office it would transfer the PAC chairmanship to the Opposition once it had dealt with all matters relating to the previous government.
Mr. Bodden said he was shocked Mr. Anglin made the comments he did because the decision to jump to the auditor general’s report on government’s late financial reporting was done by agreement of the PAC.
‘He was one of the people pushing to do this,’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘He was saying, ‘these people need to be brought in and brought in now’!
‘I believe this is purely political posturing by the Opposition. This behaviour by a veteran member and past chairman of PAC does not help in the endeavours of the committee. I am most disappointed in this member’s actions.’
Mr. Bodden said the subject of government’s late financial reporting was ‘very topical and very, very important’ and that some of the other issues left to do by the PAC were less important.
The auditor general reports not yet reviewed by the PAC include, among others, the one on the financing arrangements at Boatswain’s Beach; the one on the government’s post-Hurricane Ivan settlement with Cayman General Insurance Company; and two dealing with the National Housing and Community Development Trust. Mr. Bodden said the final two had not been undertaken because the matter is still under police investigation.
Mr. Bodden defended the decision of the PAC to move up on the agenda the report on the delinquent government financial reports.
‘We need to call these people in and at least find out what their plan is to correct this,’ he said. ‘We have to find out what’s going on, plus it will act as a deterrent.
‘No one wants to be dragged up before the PAC, no matter who it is. It’s the only deterrent we have because otherwise it’s a civil service issue.’
Mr. Bodden said there was nothing to the allegation that the PAC was trying to exonerate the government with regard to responsibility in the lateness of the financial reporting.
‘Nothing could be farther from the truth.’
With regard to Mr. Anglin’s contention that the PAC could have been meeting more often, Mr. Bodden said it was Mr. Anglin himself who prevented some meetings.
‘Rolston is the one who’s always late and is always difficult to get to a meeting with,’ he said. ‘We could just meet with a quorum of three [from the Government bench], with me, Alfonso [Wright] and Moses [Kirkconnell], but I try to include [the Opposition].
With only some six months before Legislative Assembly is dissolved prior to the 2009 general elections, Mr. Bodden acknowledged that it was unlikely the PAC would be able to deal with all the matters remaining to be reviewed in its time remaining.