Affordable housing audit review lags

A 2005 audit that eventually led to a criminal
investigation of Cayman’s Affordable Housing Initiative has never been brought
up for a Legislative Assembly committee’s review, even though the criminal
probe ended two years ago, the auditor general’s office said last week. 

The initial special report on the government’s Affordable
Housing Initiative was submitted to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on
3 March, 2005, under the previous rules governing the release of the auditor
general’s special reports.

“Therefore, this report has never become a public
document,” read a statement emailed to the Caymanian Compass from audit manager
Martin Ruben. “PAC (Public Accounts Committee) has never reviewed it and
prepared their own report on our [audit] and tabled both reports in the
Legislative Assembly.

“We have suggested in the past to PAC that they consider all three reports we
have prepared on affordable housing together, but so far no action has been
taken.”

Public
Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller said last week that he recalled at
least one of the audit reports on the Affordable Housing Initiative being heard
by the PAC.

“There
was a portion of the auditor general’s review that had been sent to the police;
we have never received that,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr.
Ruben said Mr. Miller was partly correct. Two subsequent audits of the
affordable housing scheme were heard by PAC, but the initial special report has
never been heard.

As
a practical matter, all three reports compiled by auditors on the Affordable
Housing Initiative have at least been partly available in the public domain.

The
initial report was leaked to the Caymanian Compass in 2005, and the newspaper
wrote two stories on it.

At
a Cabinet meeting on 24 May, 2005, following criminal allegations regarding the
affordable housing project, the governor asked the auditor general’s office to
conduct a special forensic audit.

The
first follow-up audit reviewed all activities of the National Housing
Development Trust between September 2004 and May 2005. That report was
completed in mid-June 2005 and was later made a public document.  The second follow-up audit asked for a review
of all activities of the Affordable Housing Initiative from its inception to 25
May, 2005. The governor again made the second report a public document.

Although
the initial audit that led to the criminal investigation was reported on in the
Compass, Mr. Ruben said that the full text of the document was never released
and has still not been heard in a Public Accounts Committee meeting where
policymakers could come up with recommendations to prevent similar issues
in the future.

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