Close the books on Auditor Dan

 Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay says he’s looking forward to semi-retirement.
   The 55-year-old Canadian lost out to another candidate in a bid to renew his three-year government contract for a third time in Cayman.
   However, Duguay says he realised his time on the Islands was running short anyway.
   “I really only planned to stay another one or two years at most,” he said.  “Susan (his wife) and I never planned to retire here.”
   Mrs. Duguay has tendered her resignation at the Complaints Commissioner’s office. The couple plan to leave Cayman at the end of May.
   Duguay admitted he was disappointed in losing the auditor general’s post.  
   “Anybody that applies for a position and doesn’t get it is always disappointed. I wish the new auditor general well.”
   But observers familiar with the situation were not surprised at the outcome of the job search.
    Duguay’s last contract expired on 6 February. He was given a three-month extension that essentially allowed interested parties time to apply for the auditor general’s post.
   Duguay says he’ll stay in office only through 7 May. After that Deputy Auditor General Garnet Harrison will assume the acting role until the new full-time auditor general arrives. 
   “I’m inclined to believe it’s not a good idea to stay past 7 May,” Duguay says. “I need to move on.” 
   The out-going auditor expressed concern that his work in the past six years was apparently not considered in the hiring process.
   “According to the Governor’s press release, the only consideration was the interview itself.”
   Governor Duncan Taylor said in a statement that a total of 58 applications were received for the position.
   That list was whittled down to four candidates, including Mr. Duguay, who participated in final interviews.
   The auditor general reports to the Legislative Assembly on the performance of various government agencies and also does routine financial audits of all government departments.
   Since last year, Duguay and members of the house’s Public Accounts Committee have sparred publicly over issues regarding how and when the auditor’s reports should be released to the public.
   Moreover, a recent audit that revealed what government had spent for a corruption investigation dubbed Operation Tempura raised hackles amongst senior civil servants.
   Duguay believes that report, at least in part, led the government to decide to advertise his job.
   The auditor general was disappointed about having to re-apply for his position.
   He has also noted that having competition for the auditor general’s post could have an effect on future auditors’ performance.
   “If the auditor general has to go every three years and fight for his job, he might have that in the back of his mind when deciding what audits to do and what to say,” Duguay says.
   Typically, Cayman’s auditor general is given a three-year contract. That is a shorter contract than the complaints commissioner or the information commissioner – both are also independently appointed government oversight offices.
   Many Canadian provinces give auditors general 10-year contracts. In Bermuda, the auditor is appointed for life.
   
   Talks too much?
   The working relationship between Cayman Islands’ press organisations and the country’s auditor general was discussed during interviews for the auditor general’s job.
   According to 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,” Duguay says. “I think people want to understand what the relationship is.”
   Duguay freely admits that speaking openly to the media was often a “scary thing”, but he thought it was appropriate for someone in his job.
   He says Cayman Islands governors, both past and present, do 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,” Duguay says. “I’ve been accused of many things, [being] a glory hound, a media-seeker, you name it.”
   Governor Taylor 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’,” Duguay says.
   The governor’s office released the following written statement in response to Duguay’s comments:
   “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 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 (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.
   The new auditor general, who is expected to arrive here in July, had not been identified at the time of going to press.  
   Duguay says his philosophy remains that auditors general should speak openly to the press whenever possible.
   “This office promotes accountability and transparency,” he says. “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 newspaper). My message gets out through (the media).”
   Duguay says 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 says. “And I always thought we agreed to disagree.”
   
   Reporting delicate matters
   According to government officials, the public release of auditor general reports is still operating under an ad hoc process pending the approval of changes to Legislative Assembly Standing Orders.
   The current government has adopted a policy that all 15 elected members of the Legislative Assembly must sign off on audit 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 has 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”.
   The outgoing auditor general wrote in an e-mail to Public Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller last month that he was never consulted on the policy that requires all 15 elected LA members to sign off on audits.  
   “I am dismayed to hear that you thought I had agreed to the process,” Duguay wrote. “The truth is I have never been asked for my opinion and this new procedure was developed without any input from me or my office. In fact, I still have not received any instructions from PAC as to what these procedures are.”
   PAC Chairman Miller indicated in his response to Duguay that the procedure for releasing reports was not new, and that the former Public Accounts Committee members had reviewed the changes with the auditor.
   Duguay says he did not believe that the previous Public Accounts Committee required all 15 LA members to physically sign a document authorising an audit’s release.
   The amendment made to Legislative Assembly Standing Order 77(3) in April 2006 stated: “Upon receipt by the Speaker, a report mentioned in paragraph (1) shall be deemed to have been referred by the House to the Public Accounts Committee for consideration and shall forthwith be distributed to all Members and shall become a public document.”  It made no mention of requiring all Members of the Legislative Assembly to sign a document authorising receipt, or to even see the document first.
   However, former PAC Chairman Osbourne Bodden confirmed that that it was his recollection that the previous Committee had adopted as policy _– in agreement with the speaker of the house and the auditor general – a system whereby all members were to see the an auditor general’s report before it was made public.
   “It was the intent to eventually make changes to [the Standing Orders] to clearly outline the new policy,” Bodden says.
   The issue of how to release audit reports has been brewing in the Cayman Islands since last year. Duguay and members of the Public Accounts Committee have verbally sparred over the process.
   Duguay has previously expressed concerns that legislators were attempting to delay the release of audit reports to the public.  Miller has stated that there appears to be no set process for doing this and has proposed changes to the Standing Orders to clarify the matter.
   “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,” Miller told the Legislative Assembly last year.
   He says proposed changes to LA Standing Orders would require the auditor’s reports to be tabled in the first available meeting of the Legislative Assembly after distribution to the members before becoming public. The act of tabling any document in the Legislative Assembly makes it public. 
   The plan would also require the PAC 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.
   Miller says 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.
   Duguay has previously said that going back to the old ways of handling auditor’s reports would be a “dangerous, dangerous precedent”.
   Duguay says he has long understood that elected lawmakers take criticism for some of items contained in auditors’ reports, whether it is warranted or not.  
   “Legislators have a difficult job,” Duguay says. “I admire politicians. I admire them so much I would never want to do their job.
   “They have to take 100 different points of view and try to come up with a policy, knowing that you’re going to aggravate a bunch of people.”
   Duguay has often been accused by elected members of having an agenda. He admitted last week 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.” 

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