Gov. wades into auditor fight

Governor Stuart Jack strongly asserted his constitutional authority this week on the matter of when and where auditor generals’ reports should be released to the public.

The issue has been the subject of some controversy since members of the government’s Public Accounts Committee began considering changes to how those reports should be made public.

‘Any major changes (to how auditors’ reports are released) would require a change to Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly and under the present constitution, and the new one, this must be approved by the Governor,’ Mr. Jack wrote in a Tuesday entry on his governor’s web log page.

‘Auditor General reports are a fundamental pillar of good governance in the Cayman Islands, and therefore this is a legitimate matter for a governor to take a close interest in.’

North Side MLA and Public Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller has proposed that auditors’ reports should become public once they are tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

Currently, the auditor general releases those reports on his own about 48 hours after presenting them to the Speaker of the House. However, Auditor General Dan Duguay has previously said that process is somewhat murky in terms of what is legally required.

Mr. Miller said last month that his proposal would not inordinately delay the release of auditors’ reports. He said the reports would still be released to the public before the committee reviews them, under his proposal.

The Public Accounts Committee would then have a three-month window following the reports release to hear testimony from those involved, before making its own recommendations in a separate report.

Under Mr. Miller’s plan, the government is given a further three months to respond to the report and the committee’s recommendations.

Governor Jack said he was pleased that a timeline was being considered for the completion of work by the Public Accounts Committee, which previously had waited years to hear certain reports from the auditor general’s office.

However, the governor said there had been earlier suggestions that auditors’ reports would no longer be published as soon as he delivers them to the Legislative Assembly.

‘The argument seemed to be that this was fairer to anyone criticised in a report as they could set out their defence when the PAC had its hearing,’ the governor wrote.

Mr. Jack stressed that all auditors’ reports needed to be made as accurate and as fair as possible, but stated that the office’s reports should be published and considered promptly.

‘It seems that the idea now is publication as soon as a report is laid before the Legislative Assembly,’ the governor wrote. ‘A firm timetable for consideration by the PAC is also being proposed, which would be a welcome improvement to the process.’

The governor’s comments came less than a week after Mr. Miller stated in the assembly that the entire issue had become a ‘media circus’ and implied that the governor had threatened him with ‘his constitutional authority’ during a phone call earlier in the month.

‘He ain’t got no business in this House,’ Mr. Miller told assembly members on 26 August.

Mr. Duguay has previously declined comment on Mr. Miller’s proposals, which he said he hadn’t seen. Mr. Miller said those proposals for changes to Standing Orders had been approved and reviewed by Public Accounts Committee members.