Media spotlight a concern with auditor

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The working relationship between
Cayman Islands’ press organisations and the country’s auditor general was
discussed during interviews for the post, the Caymanian Compass has learned.

Outgoing Auditor General Dan Duguay’s
contract was not renewed last week, as Governor Duncan Taylor and two appointed
members of a selection committee opted for another candidate.

According to Mr. Duguay, one of the
interview questions put to him by the three-person panel sought to glean how
much he felt auditors general should speak with the press.

“I’m sure that I got asked the same
questions as everyone else,” Mr. Duguay said. “I don’t think it’s outlandish at
all. I think people want to understand what the relationship is.”

Mr. Duguay – who has held the
auditor’s post in Cayman for the last six years – said that while speaking
openly to the media was often a “scary thing”, he thought it was appropriate
for someone in his job.

He revealed on Thursday that Cayman
Islands Governors, both past and present, did not necessarily share that view.

“It’s been an issue for every
governor I’ve talked to, and every governor – including this one – has said I
should try to tone down my relationships with the press,” Mr. Duguay said.
“I’ve been accused of many things, [being] a glory hound, a media-seeker, you
name it.”

The Caymanian Compass asked Mr.
Duguay to clarify those remarks with regard to current Governor Duncan Taylor,
who has only been in Cayman since mid-January. The outgoing auditor admitted he
had only spoken substantively with the new governor three or four times, but
said he was given the same impression.

“He has echoed the line that I’ve
had in substantial discussion with the previous two [governors], which was ‘you
need to be out of the press more often’,” Mr. Duguay said.

The Compass received the following
written statement in response to Mr. Duguay’s comments from Governor Taylor’s
office Friday:

“The Governor does not recall ever having told Mr. Duguay that
he needed to be “out of the press more”. There was
an occasion about a month ago when Mr. Duguay asked the Governor’s advice
on how he should respond to some specific criticism of him on the radio.
The Governor said that it was up to (Mr Duguay); but
advised him that in (the Governor’s) experience, particularly when he
was head of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Consular Services, it was
often best not to respond to criticism, even if it were unjustified. Doing so
merely gave further publicity to the initial criticism.”

The governor’s office indicated
that it was working to provide a full list of questions asked to all the final
interview candidates, of which there were four. The new auditor general, who is
expected to arrive here in July, has not been identified.  

Mr. Duguay said his philosophy,
even today, remains that auditors general should speak openly to the press
whenever possible.

“This office promotes accountability
and transparency,” he said. “So when the media phone me, I phone them back. If
they want to know what audits we’re working on, or what the audit is all about
– in a general sense – we tell them.

“I know it wasn’t the right thing
to say, but I believe it with all my heart. I could take 100 people off the
street and ask them about the last report we did on legal aid. If I asked those
100 people how many people actually read the (auditor’s) report. I’d be
surprised if two of them did.

“People are too busy. Why do they
know about legal aid? It was on TV that night, (and in) what you wrote (in the
Caymanian Compass). My message gets out through (the media).”

Mr. Duguay said the reluctance to
have his office speaking so openly to the press has been “a constant theme”
with UK-appointed governors in Cayman.

“We just disagree,’ he said. “And I
always thought we agreed to disagree.”

Since last year, Mr. Duguay and members of the house’s
Public Accounts Committee have sparred over issues regarding how and when the
auditor’s reports should be released to the public.

The government has recently adopted
a policy that all 15 elected members of the Legislative Assembly must sign off
on auditors’ reports before they are released. Previously, the auditor would
present those reports to the Speaker of the House and then simply wait 48 hours
before making them available.

Governor Taylor said he didn’t see
anything wrong with the new policy of having all 15 LA members sign to indicate
that they have received the reports, as long it doesn’t cause “undue delays”.

Mr. Duguay has often been accused
by legislators of having an agenda. He admitted Thursday that he does.

“I have an agenda. I want to get my
message out the best way I can,” he said. “I think that’s the only way to go. I
hope the next auditor general has a similar philosophy. I know other auditors
general in other countries do, but here that doesn’t seem acceptable.

“Some people say I should write the
report and, [reporter] if you have a question, too bad. That doesn’t make
sense. I want you to get it right.”

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Mr. Duncan Taylor
Photo: File