Lambasting what he called a ‘media circus’ over the issue, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller Wednesday revealed his plan for releasing auditor general’s office reports to the public.
The proposal, which Mr. Miller said has gained approval from committee members, would require the auditor’s reports to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly before being made public.
Presently, the auditor releases reports on his own a short time after they are presented to the Speaker of the House and distributed to assembly members. He is not required to table those documents in the LA.
Auditor General Dan Duguay and Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert had previously raised concerns that the auditor’s reports could be delayed from release indefinitely if lawmakers wished to withhold potentially damaging or embarrassing information.
However, Mr. Miller’s plan would likely cause very little delay, if any.
‘I believe, if approved, these…amendments will bring clarity to the process…and introduce the necessary timeliness for effective and efficient disposal of these reports by the Public Accounts Committee,’ Mr. Miller told the assembly on Wednesday afternoon.
He said proposed changes to LA Standing Orders would require the auditor’s reports to be made public before being heard by the Public Accounts Committee. Those reports would also be required to be tabled in the first available Legislative Assembly sitting.
The plan would also require the committee to make its own evaluative report with recommendations and table that report in the LA within three months of the auditor’s report being made public.
The government would then have a further three months to make public its response to the auditor’s report and the committee’s recommendations.
Mr. Miller said he did not intend to propose that the auditor’s reports be delayed until after the Public Accounts Committee had dealt with them, as has occurred in the past.
The failure of previous committees to hear audit reports in a timely fashion has delayed the public release of those documents for years.
Mr. Duguay has previously said that going back to the old ways of handling auditor’s reports would be a ‘dangerous, dangerous precedent.’
‘This is the one battle I’ll put everything in,’ he said. (Caymanian Compass, 14 August)
Mr. Miller said it was unfortunate the issue had become a ‘media circus’ over the last few weeks.
‘We didn’t declare war on him, so I don’t know what battle he’s fighting,’ Mr. Miller said Wednesday, referring to the auditor general.
The committee chairman even indicated that he had received a phone call from ‘the highest executive in the land’ about the issue. This was believed to be a reference to Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack.
‘My interpretation (of the call) was that he was threatening me with his constitutional authority,’ Mr. Miller said. ‘He ain’t got no business in this House.’
Contacted for comment about the matter on Wednesday, Mr. Duguay said he hadn’t seen Mr. Miller’s proposal and declined to comment immediately.