Fuel depot boss slams auditor

While admitting there “has
definitely been some abuse” of the government’s employee fuel card system, a Cayman Islands official has publicly criticised the
report, which revealed that potential abuse.

Department of Vehicles and
Emergency Services Director Dale Dacres – who retired Thursday – said Wednesday
that estimates of $500,000 being potentially fraudulently purchased from the
government fuel depot were “not reliable”.

“While there is some merit to
audit’s findings to (the) extent that there has definitely been some abuse, the
fact remains that the estimated level of abuse is not reliable,” Mr. Dacres
wrote in an e-mail message sent to all Cayman Islands
civil servants on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Duguay said he was upset that
the government’s “CS Messages” system had been used to respond to the internal
audit department’s review of government fuel card usage.

“I think it was an improper use of
a government system to respond to audit reports,” Mr. Duguay said. “There are
other avenues (Mr. Dacres) has to respond to these reports.”

The initial report completed by the
government’s internal audit unit looked at fuel purchases by five departments
between January 2008 and March 2009. Those departments included the Royal
Cayman Islands Police Service, The Public Works Department, the Department of
Environmental Health, the Water Authority, and the National Roads Authority.

That initial report was given to the
Portfolio of Finance in December 2009. However, it wasn’t made public until
Auditor General Dan Duguay presented the matter to the Legislative Assembly
with his own comments added.

The internal audit unit did not
make an estimate of potential fraudulent purchases that may have occurred
amongst the five agencies. Mr. Duguay added that figure in his own report and
comments on the internal audit unit’s review.

The original audit found that there
were a number of instances where a government employee had used a single gas
card to fill up numerous vehicles. Also, there were instances when cards
belonging to workers who had left the civil service were still being used at
the government fuel depot.

According to Mr. Dacres’ e-mail
message, a number of factors might have contributed to anomalies in the fuel
card system used by government.

“Let’s say (the RCIPS has) 200
patrol officers and 60 patrol cars,” Mr. Dacres wrote. “This means that
driver’s cards and vehicle cards are often exchanged between services to enable
more immediate response to service demands.”

Currently, the GASBOY card system
used by government requires employees to present two cards, one for themselves
and one for the vehicle they are using to complete the fuel up process.

“When this type of scenario
presents itself, it will appear that one officer is purchasing fuel more often
than once a day, or perhaps every hour, for the same vehicle, when in fact one
driver’s fuel card is being used to put fuel in two, three, or even more vehicles
within a matter of hours,” Mr. Dacres explained.

There are also potential
explanations for the fuel cards of employees who have left the civil service
still being used, Mr. Dacres said.

“(The employee) left his assigned
card that he often shared with other drivers from time to time…for them to
continue using,” he said. “Of course this is wrong. However, audit’s professional
standard of testing should have revealed…why (the card) is appearing to be used
by someone who is no longer there.”

Mr. Dacres said the Cayman Islands
Petroleum Inspectorate is researching various fuel card systems to acquire one
that will improve some of the “weaknesses” in the GASBOY product.

Mr. Duguay said improvements to the
lax monitoring system were what the internal audit review and his own report
were intended to accomplish in the first place.

“I would hope the government is
taking a serious look at the current fuel system,” he said.

Police Commissioner David Baines
was questioned Tuesday during a press conference about whether police were looking
into any potential criminal violations with the gas card system.

“What was clearly evidenced (by the
internal audit report) was slack management of the system, not criminal use of
the cards,” Mr. Baines said, adding that police don’t have the time to follow
up administrative investigations involving poor management by government departments.

Mr. Baines has repeatedly refused
to comment on whether the police service ever actually conducted a criminal
investigation into the fuel cards’ use.