Gov’t reports lag years behind

Figures presented to the
Legislative Assembly last month revealed that reports from government agencies
in the Cayman Islands are taking more than
two-and-a-half years on average to be made public.

The numbers came out of a request
made by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who asked the government to identify how
many quarterly reports, annual reports, annual accounts and audited annual
reports were tabled in the Legislative Assembly since 1 July, 2004 – that’s
when the Public Management and Finance Law took effect.

According to the response, there
had been no quarterly reports, 14 annual reports, 36 annual accounts, and 42
audited annual reports made public – tabled in the Legislative Assembly – in
the five years and eight months since 1 July, 2004.

The fact that many government
agencies, statutory authorities and government-owned companies simply were not
doing annual reports has been well-documented. Auditor General Dan Duguay has repeatedly
complained that his accountants often don’t receive financial statements in a
timely fashion, which ultimately delays the release of annual reports.

Since the revelations that many
agencies weren’t completing annual reports, many more have been finished and tabled
in the LA – allowing the public to review them.

However, it’s taking about two
years and eight months on average for those reports to come out. Twelve of the
92 reports tabled in the LA took more than five years before they were made
public.

One report, the financial
statements of the Courts Funds Office, completed for a seven month period ended
31 December, 1995 wasn’t tabled until 4 November, 2005. Five other annual
accounts reports were tabled on that date from the Courts Funds Office – all of
them were more than five years old.

Financial statements from the
Cayman Islands Health Insurance Fund for the years 1999 and 2000 weren’t made
public until 31 May, 2006.

Annual reports from the Public
Service Pensions Board from 2002 and 2003, which detailed the management of
retirement funds for civil servants, weren’t tabled in the LA until 5 March,
2007.

The audited annual report for the
Cayman Islands National Insurance Company from 30 June, 2005 wasn’t made public
until 5 December, 2008.

“The issuance of annual reports is
a final accounting to the Legislative Assembly and is therefore a critical
component of financial accountability,” Mr. Duguay said. “Accountability is delayed,
ultimately.”

The reasons for the delays in
releasing the reports aren’t always as simple as an agency not performing its
job. For instance, the completion of many annual reports was simply impossible
following the destruction visited upon Cayman by Hurricane Ivan in which key
data was lost.

In other cases, reports were completed
by the agencies responsible but were held up within government ministries for
months or even years.

“We know of circumstances where
annual reports have been prepared and have been delivered to the ministries for
review,” Mr. Duguay said. “That process needs to happen quickly.”

Two examples of that would be
recently released annual reports for the National Pension Office for government
budget years 2006/07 and 2007/07. The 2006/07 report was completed more than
two years before it was eventually tabled by the responsible ministry in
February 2010.

Mr. Duguay’s office is completing
an evaluation of all past-due annual reports to advise government ministries
and portfolios what work remains to be done. The government has also hired
private accountants from Deloitte to help clear up some of the backlog.

Cost of PMFL

Mr. Miller also requested an
accounting of how much the government has spent on training and implementation
of the Public Service Management and Finance Law.

According to government budget figures,
more then $15.7 million has been spent between March 1999 and May 2009 on the
establishment, training and implementation of the law’s directives.

The lion’s share of that money went
to the Portfolio of Finance and Economics ($6.5 million); with another $7.5
million being spread amongst the five government ministries. The rest went in
smaller amounts to the audit office, complaints commissioner, civil service,
internal and external affairs, and legal affairs portfolios.

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