Editorial for July 29: Accounting for civil servants

If it is learned that there is an
overpayment on a government capital project, almost everyone jumps to the
conclusion it happed as a result of either incompetence or funny business on
the part of the elected government.

Sometimes that conclusion might be
accurate, but many times the last thing an elected government wants to see is
some sort of controversy attached to its project.

However civil servants working in
various government ministries and portfolios are to blame for accounting
problems experienced on many of Cayman’s infrastructure projects.  What is becoming abundantly clear is that
there are serious accounting deficiencies in the civil service.

The lengthy delay in getting annual
reports to the auditor general’s office rests squarely on the shoulders of
civil servants. Accounting problems in the Portfolio of Internal and External
Affairs were attributed to erroneous data entries made by people who didn’t
understand what they were doing, according to the portfolio’s chief financial

The latest proof of civil servants’
culpability for government accounting comes from a discovery by the Internal
Audit Unit that the Ministry of Education was just about to overpay $1.83
million for capital projects in 2008. The audit report stated it found poor
record-keeping practices in the Ministry and inadequate retention of supporting
documents needed to create a proper audit trail.

Quite frankly, these findings are

We’re not talking about a little
mom and pop shop here – we’re talking about a government with a more than $500
million budget – but it appears that mom and pop could do a better job of

This country simply can’t afford to
throw money away because of accounting errors. It’s not asking too much from
the government – and by that we mean civil servants – to keep proper
bookkeeping records and to provide the taxpayers with an accurate accounting of
government revenue and expenditure. 

Any business that pays more than it
should because of failed accounting procedures is likely to go out of business.
The Cayman Islands Government might not go out of business, but the fee and tax
increases it must make to cover inefficient government will make others suffer
– and that is unacceptable.